The Conflict in giving a referral

Recently I had a friend ask me about a relationship with an organization I had done business with. In particular, he disclosed who in the organization he was working with. Here is the dilemma. I severed my relationship with this firm in large part due this individual and the way he did business and communicated.

A long time ago I took a course by Dale Carnegie in Human Relations and learned that if you can’t say anything good about someone you should not say anything. Yet I have a friend who has asked for my input.  What would you do?

I’ve made my decision and know what I am doing but as I thought about this I was struck by the opposing thoughts that ran though my mind. I am still trying to befriend ambiguity.

I ended up sharing my experience with the firm and the individual with the caveat that it was my experience and they might have a different one.  This now allows my friend and colleague to be perhaps more aware as he moves into his dealings.

Do you share your negative as well as positive experiences? If you don’t can you be counted on?


  1. Positive communication is always better for improving relationships. This does not mean stretching the truth, however. Highlighting both the strengths and constraints on your previous relationship is simply being authentic.

    Let your friend draw her/his own conclusions about the individual with whom you had a negative experience. What goes around comes around.

    See 5 strategies for communicating with someone you can’t stand:

  2. Thanks Chris,

    Good advice and nice post that you have submitted.

  3. Interesting article, John. Proof that the real world is not as black and white as some people would have you believe.

    I believe that honesty is important in a relationship. The reality is that this situation is a 3-way relationship. It’s between you, your friend who asked for the referral, and the people that you used to do business with. If you lie or don’t acknowledge the problem, you set the person up for an unpleasant surprise. If you say nothing and refuse to acknowledge you might be saying something there by default.

    I believe that your actions here were honorable in telling the truth and yet acknowledging that this may only be one persons perceptions. To me, that is an honest way to approach a delicate situation.



  4. Thanks Dave,

    You caught my drift.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *