14The Velvet Hammer

  • Q. How can you find the best words to say when giving feedback?
  • A. Apply the Velvet Hammer.

The Velvet Hammer is a choice of words that are soft and smooth like velvet, yet pack a punch like a hammer and get results. They are useful in so many ways. They work effectively in management to deliver corrective feedback with ease, in sales to follow up or ask for the business without seeming pushy or rude, in meetings to make a comment that may go against the status quo, even at home with friends and family. Many combinations of words can be used to deliver a potentially difficult message with ease. My favorites are “Noticed and Wondering” and “Likelihood and When?”

“Noticed and Wondering” opens the conversation, “Likelihood and When” closes it. In psychology the primacy effect is the first impression you give, as in primary, meaning first. The recency effect is the last, or most recent, impression you give. One client at a major investment firm said that he has spent years working on making a good first impression, never realizing he had to make a good last impression as well.

Keep in mind that in addition to providing corrective feedback, the Velvet Hammer can be used for providing positive feedback as well. Below are a few examples of the Velvet Hammer words in action.

Management Application Delivering Corrective and Positive Feedback

  • Corrective Feedback: “I noticed that you have been off schedule on the project lately, and I was wondering what’s the ...

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