T.H.I.N.K. (+T) before you give feedback

Carlos E. Espinal
3 min readMar 5, 2020
Photo by Jonas Kakaroto on Unsplash

Investors frequently get a bad rap for how they communicate between themselves and more importantly, with the founders they back, but luckily this is changing globally at a rapid pace and today more and more founders and investors communicate as peers.

Whilst no one is perfect, part of the reason this bad rap happens, is due to a lack of contextual empathy (understanding the circumstances the other person might be in) and perceived power dynamics between investors and founders. In effect, it’s easy to be rude when you think the other person should tolerate it, and this can go both ways (and frequently and increasingly does).

However, this doesn’t just apply to Investor/Founder relationships. It can apply across all sorts of relationships, in particular ones where one person feels obliged to give feedback, and that’s the key commonality here, having to provide a perspective to another person.

A tried and time tested method that’s been glued to many a high-schooler’s classroom walls is the THINK method of providing feedback. It’s ironic that something so commonly found in our institutions of education is often so ignored when sharing key information with those we work with.

THINK (before you speak) stands for:

T — is it True? — sometimes thoughts are more ‘perceptions’ rather than facts
H — is it Helpful? — sometimes it helps you to unload more than it does to the recipient to ‘receive’
I — is it Inspiring? — the opposite, ‘is it depressing’ clearly doesn’t do much for me, suspect that applies to many of us
N — is it Necessary? — we’re all busy and we’re challenged in some way, so is this something that’s absolutely critical?
K — is it Kind? — People tend to remember how you made them feel more than if you were right, and people tend to remember this for a long long time

If it didn’t ruin the acrostic, I’d add another ‘T’ to the list for ‘is it the right time?’ — pick the right time to give feedback, not when rushed or when emotions are running high.

Another factor to also consider prior to giving any feedback, is whether or not you’re the right person to be providing the feedback or if someone else in your team might be better suited to do so based on their relationship (and/or experience) to the person you are talking to.

The key things that stand out for us to keep in mind from the above list and in the context of the startup world, where so many things are in flux so quickly for all parties involved, is gauging how best to communicate an opinion you might have in light of it, at best, being one of multiple opinions on how to tackle something and how quickly things can change.

Don’t beat yourself up if you get “THINK”ing wrong from time to time, we all make mistakes in each one of these each time, but hopefully THINKing ahead might spare you a ruined relationship going forward and actually help you move ‘forward’ on what you’re both trying to achieve.

More on THINK below (lots of resources online) — [T.H.I.N.K. Before You Speak | Inc.com](https://www.inc.com/lee-colan/think-before-you-speak.html)