Giving Feedback To A Hardheaded Person


How do you give feedback to a hardheaded person? Giving tough talking feedback to a thick-skinned person puts your communication proficiencies to the test. It doesn’t matter if that person is a teen or a top executive or your life partner. Those communication roads can get pretty slippery. By using the Talk to Me© effective communication system, you CAN get your point across without getting off the track, being talked over, or shouted down. But it takes finesse, directive communication, a good communication map, and sticking to your plan without veering off the road or being deflected. It does take practiced skill, though, so you don’t walk away feeling, “Will I have to hit him with a 2×4 wooden plank to get this through his thick skull?”


You barely have to look critically at Empathizer-type (E-type) communicators to make them shake in their boots and change their ways. Not so with Instigator-type (I-type) communicators, who don’t give the time of day to people whom they don’t respect. As one I-typer told me, “I listen to upbeat people, not downbeat comments from people who are deadbeats.” Well, that’s a mouthful, sure enough! One I-type front-line manager recently wrote:

I decided to meet with Jack today to share my negative feedback with him. He’s not going to be happy about what I have to say. He’ll act like he’s never heard any of this before. Any dos or don’ts? I know you told me I will have to repeat my message as many as 5 – 7 times in the same conversation to get my points across. I agree Jack is stubborn as a mule; he always thinks he knows best…it’s always his way or the highway. I’ve clearly planned out what I’ve got to say. I know he’s going to be defensive. I don’t want to spend hours and hours in deep, candid discussion, and then wonder if I’ve wasted my breath or if my efforts have been productive. But it’s going to be a big relief to have Round 1 behind me.

“It’s my way or the highway!” is the call of the twisted talker and Cagey Communicator. Caring confrontation: Although with a hard headed person there will always be multiple rounds, you can win a few rounds which will prove decisive.


Negative Instigator communicators respect strength and the ability to shoot straight at the talk-target bull’s-eye. Therefore, their honest “IN MY EXPERIENCE….” statements are frigidly factual and free of blame. What’s you edge? Your experience can’t be effectively debated or contradicted. You will be a “message machine” that sounds off a repeating core message, giving it an improved chance of reaching the threshold of understanding.

Real life examples of clear IN MY EXPERIENCE… language.

1. In my experience…you always act surprised, shocked, and offended when part of my job is to call you on things.

2. In my experience…it won’t fly that I don’t value you, pick on you, put you down, or don’t count you as a worthwhile. This isn’t just all about you.

3. In my experience…I have to repeat my main concerns many times to you and give plentiful examples, or you just try and blow me off.

4. In my experience…I try to be both diplomatic and candid with you. The results promised don’t happen. Meanwhile, much stress, time, energy, and grief are generated, and you impact everyone negatively. You don’t know that people around you fear retribution if they tell you what they think.

5. In my experience…you leave impressions all around you. Instead of listening with an open mind to complaints, you just fire back a list of your own and complain about how you aren’t getting enough help or recognition. What about that’s not true?

6. In my experience…you take credit for what you haven’t done. You talk up how great you are, which is a fatal flaw, because lies get back to people. You over-value your contributions and greedily expect to reap more. Why don’t you put as much energy into a project as others do? Do you even know how others feel about you?

7. In my experience…you get all in a huff when I disagree with your view, then you come back at me like a sledgehammer. What’s offensive about my disagreeing with you? How well are your ideas working? You have told some of these lies both in your head and out loud so many times that you believe them to be true.

8. In my experience…you go on and on about how you’re not appreciated enough…how you have it so hard…how no one listens to you or cooperates with the plan. But don’t you realize that when I’m steering the ship, you shouldn’t be barking out orders at me?

9. In my experience…you complain how you’re left out of the loop. But you have to earn things, not just expect things to be given to you. You weasel your way around issues. You talk on and on about how you’ve invested so much of you in whatever project happens to be at the forefront, and you really feel that you deserve respect. But respect is earned, not purchased like a fake diploma from the Internet.

10. In my experience…I don’t trust you. Sometimes, I have difficulty believing a single word that comes out of your mouth. People shouldn’t have to suck up to you. You resent me when I don’t kiss up to you, and you act unhappy to even know me. I reallly don’t care anymore.

11. In my experience…you get angry just to make people feel intimidated and back off when, in reality, they shouldn’t. You question everything and threaten strong-armed action if you don’t get your way. You always claim it’s about principal, but it all seems to be about you feathering your nest for your peace of mind.

12. In my experience…it’s always somebody else’s fault with you. I spend hours thinking about how I can communicate more effectively with you and actually get though to you. Others have a different impression of you than you think they do. I don’t think we can work this out. I have to do what I need to do. This isn’t working.

13. In my experience…you create all these ideas of who you are and all the wonderful things you’ve done. Trust is huge. I have very little trust in you. You lie and make revisionist history. You make claims and take credit for things you say you’ve accomplished, which you haven’t. You give people the impression that you’re the hero on the accident scene. You talk like you created everything good in the world.


Aren’t these real life examples of how to keep the “always right personality” on the hot seat for a change? I realize that the tone of the message is important. These YOU statements are restricted for use with hardheaded people, when everything else you’ve tried (like talking rationally) has failed. And Instigators will be the first to debate the point that they aren’t that hardheaded or aren’t that hardheaded that often.


Personally, I have difficulty repeating a message 5-7 times, because it feels disrespectful to the intelligence of my talk partner. But people do have cotton stuffed in their ears sometimes! I’ve learned that “staying on message” works if anything will. Why? Tough talking yet caring and confrontation transactions are designed to:

1. Interrupt debating

2. Disrupt the poor story line of the negatalker

3. Encourage the listener to internalize and comprehend the constructive necessary feedback

4. Interrupt the cycle of causing anxiety/anger/blasting others in defensive communication

5. Discourage the, “You should take care of me because you don’t know the trouble I’ve seen lately…!” negatalking

6. Stay focused on “IN MY EXPERIENCE” because that can’t really be argued

7. Disallow the ducking-out-of-taking-responsibility-by-taking-a-talk- sledgehammer-to-your-head strategy

Often the ITI has to take leave from the directive confrontation to think about what’s just transpired. You will be surprised, and perhaps pleased, at what will be adopted from your trustworthy words.


Here is the Cliff Notes version of lead-in phrases for selective transactions for Giving Corrective Negative Feedback to Instigator communicators

1. My experience has been….

2. This isn’t working because….

3. Results haven’t been….

4. What I expect from you is….

5. You listen AND I’ll talk. Then you can respond, and I’ll LISTEN!

6. I can’t believe it. Are you going to deny it? Don’t lay that on me….We’ve had a failure to communicate constructively….

7. What you think is taking place hasn’t been the reality around here in my experience….

8. Frankly, I have trouble believing a word that comes out of your mouth now….


Dennis O’Grady is a relationship communications coach, corporate trainer and pioneer of the innovative Talk to Me© effective communication system, which streamlines communication that is productive and useful, inside your head, inside your company, and inside your relationships. Communication mistakes and accidents plague us all, but the Talk to Me© approach to good communication will help boost your mood, keep your energy up, and free yourself from the tar baby of negative relationships or emotions.

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