Book: “No hard feeling” by Liz Fosslien & Mollie West Duffy

"No hard feelings" by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy
Reading Time: 6 minutes

I saw this book in the twitter feed of one of my friend Anna. The title already sounded promising, but after hearing that this book is also was wonderfully illustrated, I was sold.

I read it in 1 weekend and would say I enjoyed it a lot. Topics selection was well done, and promised illustrations were hilarious and, at the same time, insightful. It is the book that you will suggest to read if folk doesn’t have time or courage to read all the classic in this area, like “Radical candor,” “Dare to Lead,” “The cultural map,” etc. It provides excellent coverage of this theme, often bringing ideas from this book (with references) in the shorter format. At the same time, I would say this a great book-connector. I personally experience a few “Aha” moments while reading it, when I finally found connections between dots, that I had in my understanding before, or finally got answers to the questions that were in my head for months. I would love to share with you some of my findings.

1. Bring to the work the best self instead of the whole self.

I remember myself when I first read this intriguing phrase about bring my whole self to work (can’t quite recall in which book it was). It affected me so much, just reading this phrase that I continuously decided to change how much I communicate at my everyday work, and next time I will be having doubts should I share something with my mates or post props in the channel, I just went for it. It was great, at least it may look like this. However, it wasn’t so much true, as when I was in the dark mood, I wasn’t bringing this to work or share with anyone, but rather shutting up, and at most sharing, that not everything is ok. So even though that phrase about bringing whole myself sounded inspiring, it wasn’t realistic. Liz & Mollie, instead of the concept “whole” are proposing to bring “best” what doesn’t restrict us to bring more personality and more emotions to work, but also more realistically describe what we naturally tend to do.

2. Vulnerability and leadership

Emotional expression and leadership
Illustration from the book “No hard feelings” by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy

I believe I discovered Rene Brown because “Dare to Lead” was between discounted books in the Kindle Monthly deal. I read it, and after that, I started noticing how many other folks are mentioning Rene in a different conversation, especially in one community I admire a lot – “Tech ladies.” However, one point still wasn’t clear to me, or even better to say I had quite a little understanding in which situations being vulnerable at work might be helpful. I was so much puzzled by this question, that I even decided to go to the workshop “Dear to Lead” to get more light on these hesitations. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it in the end as my passport with my UK residence permit was stolen at the conference in Berlin. Unexpectedly “No hard feelings” brought to me some unexpected answer to what I had on the tip of my tongue but wasn’t able to vocalize and understand properly. The book stays, that yes showing vulnerability might be helpful, but showing too much vulnerability, especially if one is in the leadership position might be also harmful, as might lead to make team more being more confused, and not sure what they should do next, as they would expect their leader even when they are expressing vulnerability not to get lost completely and still lead them. This wasn’t an answer to my original question – when to be vulnerable and when not, but it helped me understand why I internally doubted the idea that being vulnerable in front of others might be helpful.

3. Feedback – in context, precise and actionable

Feedback should be specific and actionable
Illustration from the book “No hard feelings” by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy


I thought after reading “Radical candor,” I was armed as good as possible in the contexts that relate to the giving and receiving feedback. However, I still had some doubts and gray areas that I wasn’t 100% sure about. One of them was, that yes, I do understand that I should be grateful to folks, who are providing me feedback, as I do understand with my mind, that this is showing me possibilities to grow, but there were times when I didn’t feel this internally. “No hard feelings” has a full separate chapter dedicated to the feedback (in the communication section), that highlights how it is important to avoid generic feedback, and instead make sure to include in the feedback context, observation, impact, and next steps (so named C.O.I.N. model introduced in the IDEO – read more about it After reflecting on what I read there, I would say, that for me personally good feedback is:

  •  related to my goals. I can be given feedback about anything I do, but if it is not related to what I want to achieve, there are no reasons for me to act on it
  • to be precise. I can’t agree here more with Liz & Mollie. In the book, they have provided this example of how preciseness can affect our emotions state, by providing two types of feedback for the email that someone has sent. The first feedback was: “Your email could have been better,” and the second: “The second sentence in your email restated the first and should be deleted.” How do you feel about two of them? I personally felt that I would drop int eh defensive mode straight away if I would read first feedback, and just act on the second feedback and thanks to folk who gave it to me.
  • provide information about how to act on this feedback. I still see some benefit in providing feedback without an actionable plan to folks who might have enough mental capacity to try to figure out the problem on their own. If you are providing feedback and also know how folks might act on it, do, please do, include this information.

Currently, for myself, I end up with such understanding that the feedback is done in the right way if you shouldn’t force yourself to feel grateful for it, but feel gratefulness naturally.

4. The diverse team are making better decisions

Rational and irrational emotions
Illustration from the book “No hard feelings” by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy


Have you ever heard about this? I would bet that you did. And even though, that I did understand previously, that folks with different experiences are bringing different options to the discussion table, this book opened for me a new perspective on why it might be important. In the section dedicated to decision making, Liz & Mollie highlighted, that emotions are always part of the equation when we are making the decision. The hard part here is that not only relevant emotions are affecting our decisions, but also ones that are not connected to the situation on the table in any way. Interestingly enough, folks are differently affected by these irrelevant emotions and are tended to decide with different levels of safety factors. So a nondiverse team will tend to make a decision, that will be or too risky, or too safe.

5. Don’t make your free time to be samely overplanned as working time

It was one more “Aha!” moment for me. I don’t know what about you, but for the last months no matter what I did in my free time, I very rarely felt rested after it. And even though that book didn’t provide me an advice what to do with my problem, I did relate to the fact, that it is not efficient way to relax when one plans to do something, and then feel guilty being late to that thing, or even better feeling bad that you actually not able to make it. Some times relax should mean just it – relax.

Book “No Hard Feelings: Emotions at Work and How They Help Us Succeed” is available on Amazon I would highly recommend going with the printed edition, as it is gorgeously done and illustrations are amazing.

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Olena Sovyn
Staff Software Engineer (London, UK). I ❤ React, Redux, lodash, React Storybook, and functional programming overall. Always open to learning something new

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