A member of your team may not be giving you the work product that you want or expect. A client may be needlessly making the legal process more difficult or not listening to your advice. You value the relationship, but you need some correction for it to continue. What’s the best way give tough feedback so the outcomes will be better and the person won’t start looking elsewhere?

Unless you’re cold hearted and don’t mind a constant turnover of employees and clients, you want to craft a message that will get through to the person without humiliating or hurting the other person. Most of us don’t like giving bad news as essential as it might be during a relationship.

Entrepreneur magazine states that studies have shown that those who get feedback generally apply it only about 30% of the time. If the person receiving the feedback isn’t comfortable, counseling then may be a waste of your time. You should be civil and professional, not mean-spirited, make the other person feel bad or embarrass them in front of others.

You don’t want to sugar coat criticism too thickly either or the person will be confused and resentful if you lower the boom in the next sentence. On the other hand, your iron fist will need at least a velvet glove (if not more). Positive feedback leaves the person open to new directions while negative feedback indicates changes are needed but often makes people defensive.

Author Seth Godin writes that saying, “it doesn’t sound like you” is “one of the nicest things a generous critic” can say, according to The Muse. It communicates the person’s work didn’t meet your expectations while emphasizing your faith in their abilities. You can follow up with stating how they can improve.

What positive quality is normally shown in the work but is missing this time? Should more care have been used? Does it look rushed? Was something overlooked? Too many or too few details? These examples are a way to express some confidence while correcting the problem.

You could tell the person you think they can do better (showing confidence) and ask them if they believe that they can do better (try to motivate them to improve). It’s not just the words, tone and body language are what really sends the message. Saying this in a positive tone of voice, a smile on your face and in an open body position says one thing. Saying these words in an angry voice and with a confrontational physical posture says something entirely different.

Don’t put off correction. We learn best when we’re corrected in the act. The longer time passes, the harder it is to grasp what was done wrong and what changes are needed to improve. Productive feedback, both positive and negative, professionally delivered, should be frequent.

You may have put a lot of time and energy into hiring an employee or obtaining a client. Unless you think the situation is hopeless, time and energy are trying to get things on order should be investments that can pay off in the long run.

Steve Mehta is a professional full-time mediator who specializes in mediating complex and emotional cases. A leading Los Angeles mediator, Mr. Mehta has been repeatedly selected as a Super Lawyer in mediation and is highly regarded by both sides to mediation. To schedule mediations, please visit SteveMehta.com