Why is it a Struggle?
Most people struggle with negative feedback; that’s both giving it and receiving it. The reality is that feedback of all types is essential and it is a vital skill. Without feedback, personal and working relationships will fail and the issue is, we all just carry on regardless, continuing to be ineffective in some way.
So why do we fear giving feedback? Well, our discomfort in providing feedback is because of the impact of giving feedback. We want to be helpful, but we don’t want to damage a relationship. These issues eventually pull us away from effectiveness and we go in, unprepared, and basically winging our way through the feedback, or at worst, avoiding feedback altogether.
Try this Mini-Exercise!
Don’t shy away from this. Go on, give it a try!
When you become uncomfortable one of these reactions may occur. You may even experience more than one.
Try to rank them from 1 (most troublesome for you) to 4 (least troublesome).
You may have to just avoid giving feedback at all. If you think like this, then that's a recipe for disaster, especially as you are not being authentic or congruent with how you really feel. Your colleagues, friiends and contacts will not respect you, and you could end up harbouring resentment. Think about how you'll feel once you've spoken up and handled the situation effectively. A whole lot better, I reckon!
If you are not comfortable in giving feedback, you may become angry when forced to do so. not only will your anger taint your message, you're likely to pick on the recipient's character, and personalise it, rather than keeping to the facts. We all know facts lower the emotional thermometer, while feelings raise the temperature! Therefore, you'll find the feedback you give during an angry exchange, likely be to ineffective and not helpful.
Discomfort may result in a lack of precision when you do give feedback. You may even be using future-oriented statements, which don't help to ground the feedback, or frame the actual issue. "Next time, you need to do, x,y,z, instead." The recipient will wonder what they did wrong in the first place and it may end up as a time-consuming, energy-wasting, question and answer session, which could escalate into an angry or resentful tit-for-tat exchange.
You feel that by giving some feedback that will be enough. However, you are trying to soften the blow and that is actually demonstrating a passive style. Trying to sugar-coat a problem just makes it harder for the listener to understand what the problem is—which can in turn make it harder for them to fix. You can help by being straightforward when you speak, whether to employees, customers or personal contacts. Tell them exactly what you are happy or unhappy about. If it is an area that needs fixing, ask them to brainstorm solutions with you. This - not sugar-coating - will help you both to resolve the situation.
Basically, it's more helpful to frame the full issue and explain the full event, and with confidence. And remember, it’s also important to not push on the accelerator too hard and turn your assertiveness into aggression. The best way to do this is to keep calm, allow the other person to speak, listen to their views, and empower them to come up with solutions with you.
Your most common reaction may not be on the list. When the situation calls for feedback to correct the situation, is there something else you do? What is it?
Think of feedback you would like to provide. Check that you are:
1. Preparing your script based on facts.
2. It is a clear and full message.
3. The content and delivery is balanced and assertive; neither passive nor aggressive.
Now, you have worked out how you tend to give feedback, think about the impact your style has on others. Take this short quiz to work out your preferred influencing style!
Olivia Henson works as a Master Coach and Mentor helping people through career-based issues. She is a trained NLP Master Practitioner, and a self-confessed personal development advocate! She is also a Supernova Soft Skills tutor at www.supernovaelearning.com.
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