What Ben Franklin can teach us about giving feedback

Unfortunately, for many entrepreneurs, offering feedback revolves around one shortsighted mantra: “It’s all about the Benjamins.” Well, the next time a “Benjamin” lands in your wallet, you may want to think about that old guy on the front. In his younger years, this wise old sage had a tendency to be brash and forthright. The advice of a buddy shocked him—like a key in a thunderstorm—out of his youthful ways and into the diplomat we remember today.

In this chaos-crushing clip, we break down the basics of giving feedback like old Ben. This video may save your business unwanted turnover, which will, in turn, save some more Benjamins. After all, “a penny saved is a penny earned”…even if Ben didn’t really say that.

Click to tweet this: When giving feedback, go from “being frank” to “being Franklin.” @DaveCrenshaw

Video transcription:

Does it ever seem to you that other people are resistant when you share your feedback or your opinions?

I learned a powerful lesson from the autobiography of Ben Franklin. In it he tells a story that when he was younger, a friend pulled him aside one day and said that he was coming across as proud and overbearing when he shared his opinions.

Ben was using fixed words such as “undoubtedly” or “certainly.” But instead, the older, more wise Ben began using wise words such “it could be” or “perhaps” or “maybe.”

This is a great way for all of us to express our opinions. It gives the opportunity for us to be wrong.

Me and my clients have played a little game where they’ll sit in the circle and each person will say something about the other person that’s true, but use softening word such as “It seems to me that you’re eyes are blue.”

Now it’s your turn. In the comments section below, I’d like you to share one thing about yourself that is absolutely true. But use a verbal softener to describe it, such as “I might be wearing a brown vest.”

Also, if you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future video, ask that below as well.

Thanks for watching. Now go be like old Ben.

Join the conversation: Share one thing about yourself that’s absolutely true but a use verbal softener to describe it.

I respond to every question and comment. So, please, join the conversation!


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12 Archived Responses to “What Ben Franklin can teach us about giving feedback”

  1. Such great advise! I left a job because the manager wasn’t just a JERK, she was a choice word that I won’t say here, in an effort to remain professional. ; )

    • Dave Crenshaw says:

      Hi, Arlene. Perhaps you meant to say it seemed to you that your manager was a choice word?

  2. Perhaps I am too willing to help rather than letting our staff solve the problem.

  3. Angy Ford says:

    Perhaps I don’t give my assistant director enough buffer time in her schedule when she is required to travel to 3 locations.

  4. Rebecca says:

    I probably (?) could have used this advice a long time ago.
    Or: I may have been able to use this advice long ago.
    Also, it seems to me that growing up with English courses which discouraged passive statements may have confused me on this one.

    • Dave Crenshaw says:

      Thank you, Rebecca. You may have meant to use the word “possibly” instead of “probably”…to me it leaves a little more room for error.

      And you’re correct, in written English especially for articles, reports and books, passive sentences often make for weak form, and are discouraged. However, when giving feedback or opinions, even in written form, I’ve found that using softeners such as this put the other person in a more open state of mind.

  5. Thank you, Rebecca. You may have meant to use the word “possibly” instead of “probably”…to me it leaves a little more room for error.

    And you’re correct, in written English, passive sentences often make for weak form, and are discouraged. However, when giving feedback or opinions, especially in verbal form, I’ve found that using softeners such as this put the other person in a more open state of mind.

  6. Tsahraf says:

    I might need to put more effort into writing down my thoughts. It could also help to involve myself with others more.

  7. Melanie says:

    It’s possible that my ex-boss might have been a major choice word, but, then again, it seems to me that I might have been somewhat right.

  8. Very insightful. Thank you, Tsahraf!