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Support Versus Praise: Communicating Critical Feedback With Benevolent Honesty
Delivering critical feedback can be difficult for communicators, yet it is necessary for recipients to learn and grow. Despite its importance, communicators tend to be unsuccessful in providing effective critical feedback. For feedback to be effective, recipients must be receptive and able to discern the truth in the feedback. However, communicators often perceive these goals to be in conflict, believing that honest information—which is necessary for recipients to discern the truth—will harm recipient’s receptivity. Because of this, communicators often tell prosocial lies, avoid these conversations, or employ the feedback sandwich by including praise with criticism. We suggest that these strategies are ineffective and introduce the concept of feedback support—delivering feedback truthfully by sharing critical information, while expressing care, validation, and understanding. We discuss how this work advances research on interpersonal conflict and present experimental evidence for feedback support in its effectiveness for promoting learning and growth in feedback recipients.