A service to help you communicate difficult messages
Image credit: Ben White / unsplash.com
salemandreus Apr 07, 2021
A friend's experience stands out which illustrates this idea best:
Nobody (including that friend) had the courage to tell a bride-to-be (unfamiliar with make-up) that her planned wedding make-up (done by someone also unskilled in make-up) looked awful.
The friend instead hired an excellent make-up artist to teach the party wedding make-up techniques as a "bridal party gift", during which she ensured the future bride showed the make-up artist the photo of her make-up. When the artist reacted with brutal honesty and explained the techniques the crisis of immortalised wedding photograph regrets was averted.
This example illustrates how, despite someone's burning conviction and desire to communicate honestly, there are situations where many people still are too socially anxious to communicate important messages under pressure, but still want to find a way to get the message out truthfully.
Other similar failures are toning a message down until the message is lost, one’s mind going blank under pressure, lacking the means to express what you mean, being cornered into unwillingly committing to something out of fear/ guilt, or being gaslit into doubting one's convictions and giving into the bystander effect. Even people who strive to be honest may still find themselves avoiding “small” and “unnecessary” conflicts at times which lead to them walking on eggshells, avoiding well-meaning people or even failing to clarify important messages or even safety warnings to avoid sounding condescending or ignorant.
What if there was a professional service one could call where someone could either do the relaying in the right way for you, or teach or facilitate people being able to do it themselves in the moment? (Eg prompt people to keep focused on their points in the conversation, when they aren't able to keep a cool head themselves, and point out when the point is being missed? ) These would not be complex situations where you would need a counsellor or a whole conflict mediation.
They would be where a single simple message would be best communicated early or in a specific "right way", the goal being to prevent regrets or more complex problems down the line from not speaking up timeously and communicating effectively.
Wesley Jones Apr 07, 2021
An app, app extension, or email/text service, called “Radical Candor,” which sends difficult-to-convey messages to your friends and loved ones. The sender can choose to be anonymous or not.
Before accepting the message, the received should have to confirm that they will (1) read the message with the most charitable interpretation , (2) not seek revenge and/or condemn the sender (even if they figure out their hidden identity), and (3) try their best to listen and understand.
Message senders, on the other hand, will need to confirm that they are sending constructive criticism with the purpose of ultimately uplifting the recipient.
The service will provide a “safe space” to be brutally honest, with the end goal of improving the lives of the people you love. Because of the helpful zone-of-confrontation created by user expectation, those receiving the message will be in a more receptive headspace for critique.
Furthermore, the service solves another significant issue with confrontation: someone being embarrassed (and subsequently closed off to the advice) due to the time/location of the input. It isolates the interaction to a 1-1 communication, adds distance between the parties, and ensures that messages are read through a positive lens.
The service creator would have to install some measures to screen for purely hateful, overtly aggressive, or derogatory messages. And if a user is found to be abusing the service, they would need to be permanently disqualified.
All in all, senders would be put in a bold position to share their loving but difficult thoughts, and receivers would be prepared to receive criticism in a proper mood.
Not everything is sacred
Spook Louw Apr 07, 2021
I love this idea, a lot of people are extremely anxious about other people's reactions and allow themselves to be inhibited by these fears.
A service like this could be a great way for people with intense anxiety about these kinds of things to still "say" what they want to say.
I think a lot of people will also take this idea way too seriously, I'm sure you didn't intend for the service to be used to tell someone their mom has passed away or daddy lost the house. This is meant to be a way to give people information that they need on topics that they might be sensitive about.
You don't want to tell your best friend that he/she is getting fat, but you do care about their health. So what do you do? You get this service to deliver the message on your behalf without your friend feeling embarrassed.
I think the biggest obstacle you would face will be deciding how these messages are to be delivered.
I really liked the idea of the Radical Candor app but upon more consideration I think it just leaves way too much space for bullying, fraud and harassment. Imagine the horror of receiving untraceable inappropriate messages.
The two options I can think of are-
- The recipient never even knows that they have received a message. This would require a lot of planning and be expensive, but you could have the service provider find a way to get the message to the intended person without ever directly telling them. Much like your friend's wedding scenario. I think this is the best way to go about it, but it will be a laborious undertaking.
- The service provider gives the message to the intended person. This would be easier, the service provider would literally just be acting as a messenger from an anonymous friend. For this to be worthwhile though, the service provider would need to be extremely discreet and would need some skill or training in psychology to keep the recipient calm and ensure that they receive the message.
All that said though, it would probably have to be an expensive and elite service. The resources and time that would go into the operation will make it difficult to provide this service at a feasible price.
Problem definition and things to consider
Darko Savic Apr 07, 2021
The proposed solution tackles several potential problems:
- The information recipient, being hurt by the message's content, sometimes retaliates towards the messenger. The prospect of this happening scares the messenger and makes them reluctant to attempt relaying the information in the first place.
- The messenger anticipates that the recipient's reaction will remain an unpleasant experience/memory forever (seeing them find out that someone passed away, etc).
- The messenger lacks the courage to make a decision.
- The messenger lacks the knowledge to construct a good message.
- The messenger lacks the knowledge to even deal with such a situation.
- Some people stop listening mid-message and launch into offensive mode as soon as they detect criticism or something that can hurt their feelings.
- possibly various other problems
To tackle all these situations via one team would require quite some expertise because every problem has a different root cause. In some cases, bad advice could do more damage than if the service was not called upon. Also, both sides might end up resenting the service for a bad outcome even though a good outcome was never likely. The fact that the service was even used to relay the message could prompt some difficult conversations between people later on. This in turn could reduce the word-of-mouth recommendations for such a service.
I think the idea is great. I'm just trying to find a few low-hanging-fruit type of weaknesses to patch at this stage.
Comedy-like human service
Povilas S Apr 08, 2021
From what has already been pointed out in the contributions and discussions above it seems that humans are better at handling this type of problem than technology. First of all - because the issue is very human in nature. An app might provide anonymity and "safe" environment to express yourself, but after more careful consideration it would probably create more problems than benefits, especially on the receiving end (opportunity for bullying, distance from the actual person, anonymity, which is a double-edged sword in this case, are potential drawbacks).
The function of a person telling a hard message is not only to convey the message (like through text) but also to be there and do the best they can to decrease the possibility of the receiver taking "bad news" the wrong way. If you do this through writing, the person will only see explanations of how you don't mean this the bad way, but they won't see your facial expressions and hear your voice, in other words - experience your live emotions that are the most important aspect. However, if a person is too afraid/not confident enough to tell it, relying on someone else as a messenger seems like a valid alternative.
When an unfamiliar person conveys the message, this has a certain benefit on both ends, because there's no emotional tension associated with the friendship (or other close relationship), neither from the sender's nor from the receiver's side. On one hand, it might be easier for the receiver to disregard this as impersonal (a stranger tells me this, why should I care), but on the other, it might work exactly because of that (wait, a stranger told me that, maybe I should think about it). This is where the professional part starts - the service provider should be good at finding ways to ensure that the message sinks in without hurting person's feelings.
In the original story with the makeup artist things worked out fine exactly because of that - the situation was designed in a way as if this happened accidentally and there was nothing personal about it, on top of that, the person to tell the message was a real professional in the field. The circumstances set the scene bound to succeed. Those circumstances were orchestrated. Suitable circumstances can potentially be orchestrated to tackle any specific issue. The people providing such service would basically have to be con artists and at the same time be good at psychology. This is actually a really fun business to envision. Something in between a movie script and a real business opportunity.
There is no need to hire a professional make-up artist or any professional, whatever is necessary to convince the person can be an act. The main con here is lying. It's mostly a white lie, but still. I think whether it was the right thing to do can only be determined by getting the receiver's feedback after some time - telling him/her it was an act just to convey the hard message and then seeing how they feel about it. If the lying part would never be revealed I'd consider it to be unfair even if the person seemingly benefited from it, truth is important. However, if they can laugh about it themselves, or at least take it neutrally, then it's a success. The eventual outcome can be predicted by people who know the person and their character.
All that being said, what is extremely important to have in mind before committing similar actions whether on your own or with a help of some kind of service is to analyze your motives first and to double and triple check with yourself if this is really necessary, whether it will do good for the person, if it's not coming from your own biases and psychological projections, etc. It's very common for people to think that they know better for others, but in the end, the only person who can know is ourselves.