4 Tips for Selling Yourself Successfully to Customers

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Radical Candor" by Kim Scott. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What happens when your feedback comes without caring personally for the person you’re speaking to? How do manipulative insincerity and obnoxious aggression prevent a culture of radical candor?

Manipulative insincerity is a type of feedback that doesn’t challenge people to improve and doesn’t come from caring personally. Obnoxious aggression does challenge, but does so without caring.

Keep reading to better understand manipulative insincerity and obnoxious aggression, and how they fall short of radical candor.

Feedback Without Caring Personally

As a boss, your guidance can fall into one of four quadrants along the axes of caring personally and challenging directly: “obnoxious aggression,” “manipulative insincerity,” “ruinous empathy,” and radical candor. 

Not Challenging DirectlyChallenging Directly
Caring PersonallyRuinous EmpathyRadical Candor
Not Caring PersonallyManipulative InsincerityObnoxious Aggression

Manipulative Insincerity 

Manipulative insincerity happens when you don’t care about your employees, but do care about how they perceive you, so you avoid challenges and disagreements, which might make them feel negatively about you. There’s no real guidance in an environment led by manipulative insincerity, because there’s never any honest, actionable feedback given. 

Praise from a place of manipulative insincerity is usually in the form of a false apology, made just to avoid uncomfortable conversations. If your employee confronts you, saying, “You said my proposal isn’t clarified enough for the debate. That really bothered me,” manipulative insincerity will push you to duck out of the discomfort of disagreement. Instead of explaining your perspective, you might say, “Well, you know the project best and if you think it’s ready, I agree. Sorry for doubting you.”  

Criticism from a place of manipulative insincerity is often too nice and dishonest, stemming from your fear of how you’ll be perceived if you challenge your employee or give negative feedback. Instead of honestly telling an employee her proposal is weak, you might say, “Maybe this proposal needs to be refined a bit, but of course, you know the project better than I do, so you can make that call. Overall it looks really great!”

Obnoxious Aggression

Obnoxious aggression happens when you challenge directly without caring personally. Bosses who fall into the obnoxious aggression quadrant give feedback that is based in humiliating and holding power over people. Obnoxious aggression isn’t necessarily good, but if you’re going to be in any quadrant outside radical candor, this is the one to be in—if you’re challenging people, at least you are making an attempt to help them improve, and the rest of your team won’t have to pick up their slack. 

Praise from a place of obnoxious aggression is usually characterized by empty compliments and regurgitated information—it’s clear that there’s no care behind your words. If your employee tells you about her weekend, but you don’t really care what she did, you might respond with a generic, “Wow, sounds cool.”

Criticism from a place of obnoxious aggression is usually arrogant, personal, and meant to be humiliating. Often, the criticizer makes assumptions about the recipient. For example, if your employee sends a messy proposal to the team, you might hit Reply All to say, “This proposal is a mess. I can’t believe how many typos you missed. I know some of your work can be subpar, but this is something else.”

Manipulative Insincerity & Leads to Bad Feedback

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Here's what you'll find in our full Radical Candor summary:

  • How you have to be direct with people while also caring sincerely for them
  • Why relationships are an essential part of successful leadership
  • How to create a strong team culture that delivers better results

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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