Radical candor

March 19, 2017

I want to be loved. Who doesn’t? Except I am willing sometimes to go above and beyond to get that appreciation. I try my best to bring positive energy into the room, to smile, to take care of the people around me. On bad days, when I can, I try not to interact too much with others, so that they won’t be affected by it. It makes my day when people call me sunshine, when they say I am such an optimistic, that I make them happy. When it happens, I feel I succeeded in my mission of bringing more kindness into this world.

I am also a strong defender of authenticity. I believe the more we can be ourselves, the better our lives are. It makes us more effective at work, more genuine in our relationships, more at peace in our hearts. So when I heard about radical candor , I was already sold. I want to be nice, and I want to speak the truth. Radical candor was what I was preaching on a daily basis after all.


The dark side of being nice

Or was it? When listening to Kim Scott, co-founder of Candor, Inc., I realized I was doing it all wrong. Me wanting to be nice, me caring about others, was for sure making me a pleasant co-worker, but it wasn’t making me a kind one. I was getting back the love I was looking for, but I wasn’t taking care properly of my colleagues when sugarcoating everything I was telling them, never criticizing them. Sometimes you just need to say it, say what you think, with kindness but also with firmness. Everyone once in a while needs some tough love.

Trying to be nice when you shouldn’t be is hypocrite: when I am refusing to say what I think in order not to hurt anyone’s feelings, I feel like I am walking on eggshells, and eventually I find myself talking behind someone’s back or complaining to my co-workers or my friends. I know, not nice at all, but it is what happens when I don’t express what I perceive as my truth, when I don’t share my honest perspective on a given topic.

This is also what I can affirming yourself. It’s not about being angry all the time, it’s not about being mean. Kim Scott shares this wonderful and simple graph with two axes, one about caring personally and the other one about challenging directly. When you are able to do both at the same time, radical candor happens.


Sometimes, you’re better off as an asshole

The interesting thing about it is that for her, the second best option is to be an obnoxious asshole. In that case, at least you are challenging directly your people, which is good for them, better at least than the ruinous empathy trap I often fell in.



When you hesitate to share clear guidance, you are putting someone at risk of failure, which can lead to permanent damage. When you don’t get the feedback early on that you are doing something wrong, how can you know? Let’s start with the presumption that everybody wants to do good, is trying to do good. If you don’t give them proper feedback, some true praise but also some kind and clear criticism, they won’t ever be able to get better : they simply don’t know how they are doing.

It found myself once in that confusing zone when I started working at lululemon. It was a dream of mine to work for that company, as it fitted my passions and values. I was put in a completely different position than the one I expected, and had no idea on how to perform well into that role. I was determined to be the best, but as I started to understand more the company as well as the expectations regarding the position, it was already too late: I was being fired. I had tried to get feedback before, looking desperately for someone to tell me what was the game plan and how I was doing, but this kind and clear criticism only came a week before I was given my 4%, and by the time I got it, the decision was already made on my managers’ side.


Radical candor and the Four Agreements

I find radical candor shed a new light on the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz I have been practicing for years now. Whenever I am in doubt, whenever I struggle, I get back to those four easy-to-remember truths to guide myself through whatever is going on.

The Four Agreements are:

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make a
  4. Always do your best.

Up to that point, I understood the first one, “Be impeccable with your word”, as never saying anything negative, which led me to hold back a lot, and ruminate later on. I believe radical candor goes hand in hand with the Four Agreements. I see now that being impeccable with my word is not necessarily about never saying anything “bad”: it is more about making sure before I speak that it comes from a place of love, with the clear intention of being a proper reflection for someone else.

And if I am not there yet, if I stubble as I practice this new principle of radical cantor applied to the first agreement, please remind yourself of the three following ones: don’t take it personally, don’t make assumptions, I am always doing my best.


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