Here’s how to give feedback to someone you know will take it really badly:
Clear content: Let your words do the work. Imagine that you are a newscaster and that it’s important that people understand. If your counterpart distorts what you say, repeat it.
Neutral tone: Tone is the nonverbal message, the inflection, facial expressions and body language. It’s hard to use a neutral tone when emotions run high. That’s why you need to practice aloud ahead of time.
Temperate phrasing: If your counterpart dismisses, resists or throws back your words, he’s not likely to absorb your meaning—so choose words carefully.
For example, a team leader can say: “In the first quarter, the team didn’t get the deliverables you committed to on the dates you agreed to. With those omissions, I can’t provide a recommendation for you.”
At the end, say: “Thank you for meeting with me. I wish this had worked out differently.”
— Adapted from “How to Give Feedback to Someone Who Gets Crazy Defensive,” Holly Weeks, Harvard Business Review.