Did it ever happen to you? You’ve been upset by something a family member, a colleague, or friend did. You lash out to them… and afterwards you kind of regret… because your message didn’t get across… and you realize you didn’t handle this as well as you could have … You want to know how to reprimand someone and do so effectively? Here are 3 great questions we stumbled on a couple of years ago. We love them and try to use them ever since. Not always easy. But so effective!


Question 1: Is it true?

We all know them, those sterile discussions where you say, “what happened was x”; and the other party disagrees and says “no – what happened was y”. And you realize they are right. The facts you presented them in the first place, were not correct… The result? The ‘constructive message’ you wanted to pass along, goes down the drain. Because you lost your credibility. Not really what you wanted when you decided to reprimand the other party… That’s why question 1 is so useful: “Is what I’m going to say true?

Question 2: Is it helpful?   

Being factual is not enough though. As you probably have noticed before (we definitely did) – pointing out to somebody else how ‘wrong’ or how ‘bad’ they are, may feel good for a moment (it alleviates your frustration), but not longer than that. Making the other party feel inferior doesn’t help your cause (nor does it help your relationship together). For your reprimand to have a beneficial impact, it’s important to convey a positive, practical message. Something the other party will consider useful. That’s why question 2 is so important: “Is what I’m going to say helpful?”

Question 3: Is it kind?   

Now let’s imagine that you are giving the right facts, and that your message is helpful. Things might still go wrong… The third reason reprimands often miss their target is because of the way the feedback is presented… Present your comments in a harsh, non-constructive way – and you lose the entire impact of your reprimand. Why? Because the only thing the other party will remember is how harsh you were. How uncivil you were. They don’t hear the constructive message you tried to convey. They can only think of one thing: how you behaved as a brute. In their eyes, you have a problem. You are the problem. Not them. Not really what you wanted… That’s why question 3 is so powerful: “Is what I’m going to say kind?”


As stated above, we learnt about these 3 questions a couple of years ago. They’ve proven powerful to us. That’s why we wanted to share them with you.  


Contact us if you want our guidance to help you or your team act even more as inspirational leaders.