Wednesday, July 27, 2016

How to Give Feedback

If someone you're trying to give feedback seems defensive in response, take a look at how you're framing your words. Are you using general and blaming terminology? ("You never initiate a conversation about our relationship." "You come across as arrogant." "You've been disrespectful to me." 

It's a natural human response to defend ourselves against feeling we've been wrong or bad. If you really want someone to change, it's vital to frame your comments in a way that bypasses those defenses. The other person needs to be able to take in what you're saying and consider whether they want to change and know how to change. 

If someone asks, "Why didn't people didn't warm up to me at the dinner party last night?" saying "Well, you came across as arrogant" will be difficult to hear and accept as true. Even if they can accept it, they might change some behavior that's entirely different from what you meant to point out. What behavior, exactly, seemed "arrogant" to you? 

Effective feedback is specific, descriptive, nonjudgmental. It communicates whether or not someone's behavior is "on target" in relation to a shared goal.  

While these examples are from work situations, the elements of effective feedback apply equally well in personal relationships:
Instead of judging someone as wrong -- using words like should, always, never, don't -- describe what you've observed.
Judgmental: "You're still not delegating enough."
Descriptive: "We talked about your delegating more to Larry and Helen, yet you're still putting in overtime. Tell me how things are going with them."  
Instead of a general comment that's open to interpretation, be specific. 
General: "You're not a team player."
Specific: "At the quarterly team meeting last week you noted how you improved profitability but didn't mention the work we put in behind the scenes." 
Instead of criticizing the whole person, direct your feedback toward behavior that can be changed.
Personal: "You're a buffoon!"
Behavioral: "Your introduction today took 30 minutes. Your stories were funny, but we were pressed for time, and after about 15 minutes I quit listening because I was anxious to get started."
The simple formula?  Describe specific behavior.


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