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Saying something more critical has some downsides and upsides.

Downsides:

* You could burn a bridge if you are not careful. It is a small world after all in certain domains.

* Open yourself back to criticism, person starts defending themselves, worse they go on twitter about it.

* You help them too much so now they compete better with someone you invested with. Telling someone they screwed up would be giving them an edge. Sometimes investors might not want that. It is better to provide dismissive or false feedback ("you guys are awesome, it is me not you, I just don't have time, keep working hard on this"). Basically give them false feedback so they don't realize how badly they are fucking up.

* It creates a negative social vibe. Some people are just averse to negative public display of emotions. It rattles their nerves too much, regardless of how it starts or who causes it.

Upsides:

* You get to feel better (this is the most important but people forget). You are a teacher giving feedback to an inexperienced person. It makes you feel good and smart. This is an egotistical reason to do it.

* You like the person so you want to help them. Maybe you hope they accept the feedback, fix the issues and you come back to you. Note this involves believing in them to start with. This is an altruistic reason.

In general the downsides are more risky than the upsides. So people will choose not to give negative feedback.




I think this is really spot on. When my startup in 1997 started selling things to a Japanese partner one of our investors remarked that 'we will consider it' was Japanese for 'no' and 'we will seriously consider it' was Japanese for 'as long as I draw breath this won't happen.' But navigating that positive based feedback could be very useful. Discussions in hypotheticals become more common and with our partner a very popular technique for providing negative feedback was to discuss this other person they were working with who was having issues (sort of like telling the doctor your "friend" has these symptoms but is too shy to come in and talk about them.) By keeping the conversation very firmly and plausibly directed elsewhere, the downsides were mitigated.


That investor was spot on. The best signal you can get from a Japanese business partner is their eagerness to go out for a night on the town :)

In Japanese, "We will consider it" or "kentou shimasu" (検討します) literally means to investigate and attack from its Chinese roots and is a way to signal distance.

If you are in early stage talks and if they are serious you will get a request to sign an NDA or some form of binding contract.


I think that's great advice and great way of giving feedback.


I'm actually not sure how to apply that advice in real world situations. Giving negative feedback usually triggers aggression, and group reprisal, while switching to "hypotheticals" and "friends" makes it sound as if i'm talking down to them, which also triggers aggression and group reprisal. So, I normally look for the socially anonymous outlet for my opinion, like downmoding the "me too" and "thanks" comments, and then move on with my life. Because, while the comments are not hateful or disruptive, they don't add anything to a discussion.


I usually preface this with the usual: take this with a grain of salt, try to ask them more questions, etc. I've found people are more willing to listen to feedback if you take the time to understand the idea. I also profess any biases I have up front that maybe relevant. If they still get upset, it's probably just best to move on anyways. There's lots of people out there.




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