Hurt vs. Harm

I love Skittles. I ate on average a bag a day for months. Fast forward six months later; I’m at the dentist office. “Ms. Adams you have three cavities that need filling and tooth #3 needs a root canal.” Yikes! Here’s the point: eating these tasty treats did not hurt me; however, the Skittle-abuse resulted in harm. Looking at it another way, the dental work did not harm me, but it hurt like heck back then.

Leadership and teaming is sometimes like that. Occasionally what you say to team members may indeed hurt (their feelings) particularly when you are calling out a behavior issue or problem. However, remaining silent instead of giving (constructive) feedback may harm the receiver in the end. Holding back on critical feedback could limit their learning opportunities or career endeavors because of self-sabotaging actions.

Dr. Henry Cloud in his new book Necessary Endings describes hurt vs. harm as follows:
“We all hurt sometimes in the face of hard truths, but it makes us grow. It can be the source of huge growth. This is not harmful. Harm is when you damage someone. Facing reality is usually not a damaging experience, even though it can hurt.”


So remember the Skittles story and weigh the feedback you receive, the performance evaluation you read, or the interaction you encounter. Remember hurt vs. harm, you’ll be glad you did.

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