Many people may feel reluctant to give constructive feedback as words may come out wrong. This happens to everyone and I mean everyone because we generally have emotions accompanied with it. We tend to focus on what we should say however, having some awareness on what happens to us before and during our conversation may make a big difference in the end. This is as important as the feedback you want to give, if not more.
In many workshops I have noticed that managers need more support in having self-awareness and managing their emotions while giving feedback than the steps to follow while forming their message.
The three points below will give you an overview on how to have a successful conversation.
1) Your level of resilience
If the situation you want to give feedback about stepped on your values, cost you time, money or emotions you may want to say something about it. The first thing you want to look at is what the situation does to you. If you notice that you have an emotional reaction then you may want to pay attention to it.
We show it or not, we all check in to the land of ‘emotional reaction’ from time to time but the question is how long we stay there. Staying on this land for a long period may cause us to be stuck in the past when the feedback conversation is happening in the present. It never helps to be on different pages when speaking with someone.
If you are quite resilient and able to leave the land of emotional reaction you will be able to step into the ‘right intention’ which is the next stage.
2) Your intention
When you speak where (which feeling) do you come from? Disappointment, love, anger, …? When you look for such feelings I suggest you listen to your body and not just your mind. Your reference points are stomach, palms, nostrils, shoulders and etc.
To simplify this, when we speak, especially while giving feedback, we come from a constructive or a destructive place. The ‘right intention’ comes from the constructive place. Actually the rule is quite simple: If you do not have the right intention just do not give feedback then.
3) The ‘giving constructive feedback’ formula
There is a time and place for all sorts of conversations however, if your only objective is to give feedback (especially in a work environment) I suggest you focus on the steps below.
a) Check your intention and continue if you really want to sort out the issue.
b) Focus on facts – what you have seen and/or heard. Not what you think (your judgement) or feel. This is the part where you stick to facts and focus on the situation. Also letting emotions to sneak into your conversation would not help. If you want to do a short and clean job just stick to the facts.
c) Say how the situation should look like or sound like. If your personality is too much present in your feedback the receiver may feel controlled or manipulated and you may get yourself a strong resistance. This happens in less than a second.
d) End the conversation with an action plan. Where appropriate ask them what action they will take so that the feedback can serve to an accountability. This way you can move on.
If you feel comfortable with the giving constructive feedback formula but things go wrong as you start speaking you may want to check if you are still residing in the land of emotional reaction and/or if you have the right intention. This will manifest itself in having difficulties in connecting at the professional or personal level with the person you are speaking to.
If you are having a positive conversation and you get questions that look for clarification around the expectations this shows that you need to focus on the giving feedback formula.
Please remember that you will need to practice this muscle. You know that you will not get your ideal look with only one session in the gym. Same principle!
Author: Melda Ekmen, Executive Coach at InsideOut