There are three types of criticism:
a) the authorised
b) those that must be accepted as external perceptions
c) those for which the person who raises them should be punched in the face

Thomas Meyer (2022)

Careful communication increases the likelihood that criticism or praise will be effective rather than hurtful. 

Good feedback consists of fact and emotion

The fact that emotions have no place in the business world is - to put it unemotionally - wrong. Because it is the emotion that emphasises the importance of feedback. However, it is much more effective to name emotions instead of acting them out! This makes them more acceptable to the other person! Criticism thus moves from c) to b) and from b) to a) in Thomas Meyer's introductory quote.

The fact, on the other hand, helps to categorise what exactly ignites the emotions:

We agreed that you would complete work X by today. I realise you didn't do this (fact).
This makes me feel that I can't rely on you. (Emotion)

The combination: fact + emotion gives a feedback effect. The fact provides information and advice on what is at stake and what to look out for in the future. The emotion describes the importance. Both elements are neither instructive nor negotiable:

- the fact is verifiable

- the emotion is a first-person message about how the sender feels. My emotions are my emotions.

The recipient has a hard enough time. Because feedback questions your own actions. Logically, you use every opportunity to evade: Counter-attack, look for errors in reasoning, criticise the manner, etc...

Therefore, the utmost care should be taken when providing feedback!


The fact must be concrete, specific and verifiable. The important thing is that you can't argue about the fact. "You're always late". That is wrong, imprecise, general. The answer to this should be clear: there will surely be a counterexample that proves that the statement is false. 

Much better is: "You were 5 to 10 minutes late for sessions A, B and C." This is specific and verifiable. 

(Tip: People often wait too long to give feedback and then make it too big! It's just unpleasant. Clarifying irritations quickly and at a low threshold is much more effective).


This refers to my emotion as a feedback provider. How do I feel about the above fact? It is often an important management task to find out what emotion a behaviour triggers in me in the first place:

  • does it annoy me?
  • Does it unsettle me?
  • Does it make me sad?

Etc. Good formulations are: 

"This gives me the feeling that I can (not) rely on you." "This annoys me." "I'm pleased to hear that."

There is a lot of power in naming your own emotions clearly and straightforwardly. Acting out your emotions is easy: banging on the table, huffing and puffing, or praising. However, the leadership work consists of recognising and formulating the emotion. The sentence: "That annoys me." has a much stronger effect than simply letting your anger out. 

This works in exactly the same way for positive feedback! 

It is crucial to design positive feedback with similar care. Praise and criticism both need fact and emotion. The fact provides detailed information on which behaviour is to be reinforced or changed. Emotion provides the weight. 

Reinhard Sprenger (2015) says: Praise is poison and harmful in the long term. However, you can also see from the examples he gives that they do not follow the above rules. Praise as he understands it has something normative about it, i.e. the praiser says, as it should be: "You did a good job." Used in this way, praise is manipulative. Praise is intended to encourage certain behaviour, but without being transparent about the background.

The variant shown above with fact and emotion is completely different. She places the considerations transparently on the scales and leaves the interpretation to the vis-à-vis: "You have done work XY without me directly instructing you to do it. This gives me the feeling that you think along with me and that I can rely on you.

This "praise" makes the manager's considerations transparent. This is based on the idea that each person has their own reality and that we can only support each other in understanding it. (Cf. here)

This might also interest you:


Meyer, T. (2020). If loneliness wasn't so instructive, you could easily despair.

Sprenger, R. (2015). The decision is yours. Ways out of everyday dissatisfaction.