Giving feedback – is that an Art or a Science? Let us leave that argument for the pundits. The bottom line though is that it is one life skill that all of us would do good to understand and master.
I have often been quite amazed, when I have witnessed somebody giving a very strong feedback to a colleague or an acquaintance, and yet the receiver – far from being defensive – receives the feedback in a very positive manner. How does this happen? Does it only depend on the receiver or does the sender play an equally important role in successful feedback sharing?
Years of getting feedback – a lot of it from my wife (sob!) – has taught me that the feedback giver plays a big role in making the receiver open and comfortable, even before he starts giving the actual feedback. At such times, feedback that is given – is gracefully done so – and often helps strengthening the bond with the receiver.
Here are 5 nuggets of wisdom, culled from years of experience, battering and learning:
- Clear Intentions:
As a person giving feedback, the intention you harbour seeps through to the person receiving the feedback. So, check your intention – is it only to point fingers and put the other person in a tight, uncomfortable spot? Or is your intention to help the other person to do better in life? Either ways, your intention gives a vibe to the receiver – both by verbal cues & through non-verbal (body language) gestures. When a receiver gets the vibe that your feedback is targeted at helping him/her to succeed in life, it makes him so much more receptive to the whole session.
- Catch the Goodness:
People often dread the word “Feedback” because they feel it is always some finger pointing at their perceived faults. No wonder then, that they clam up – wear their defensive suits and pretty much deflect any feedback coming their way. Don’t make this mistake!
Feedback should be as much about the good things you notice, as it is about the areas needing improvement in another. An old adage shows us the way: Always lather before you shave. Another perspective to keep in mind always is that making mistakes in the quest for improvement, if criticized very strongly, discourages a person from venturing out and trying anything new in future. A better approach always is to first point out ‘what worked’ – and then move on to ‘what could have been better’. The tonality makes all the difference – and gives the receiver the feeling that no part of his work went unnoticed.
- Catch them Young:
Yes, there is a perfect day to share your feedback : TODAY. That’s right! Don’t wait for a perfect day or occasion to come when you can share your feedback. Do it as soon as possible. Just imagine, if I tell you, “Last to last Friday you did…” or I tell you that, “in the meeting TODAY you did…”. Which one of these two has more impact for a positive feedback sharing? Yes, you are right, the one that starts with TODAY!
- Choose the Right Method: This is the most important point in the entire process. For an effective sharing you must share it through the right method, to ensure that the receiver gets the complete message. Let’s list down the methods from least effective to the most effective:D) Through someone else:
This just feels so sly, slimy, negative and wrong. Don’t ever do this in any feedback communication. It might have a negative impact on the relationship and can create doubts on your intention.
C) Email / SMS / Whatsapp:
A study said that more than 70% of all human communication happens through non-verbal means. Hence, as convenient as technology is – in most cases, an email, sms or whatsapp message doesn’t quite reflect the emotions, intentions or the care – as face to face communication does.
B) Phone call:
Though calling is a much better option than the two above, but it is certainly not the best method for an effective delivery. Yes, the person can hear you but don’t forget that the words can be misleading if delivered without the right emotional connect.
A) In Person:
This is the most appropriate method to deliver your feedback. Especially for two reasons: 1) When two people are face-to-face and give out the desired vibes, there is an additional connection that takes place that helps in impactful message delivery. 2) You can catch the direct/indirect signals coming from the receiver if he isn’t clear or convinced about any part of the feedback, giving you a real time opportunity to explain your point better.
- Model the Way:
In the Negotiation workshops that we run, based on the Harvard Negotiation Project, we often mention that one of the best negotiation mantras is to separate the problem and the person. The same holds when we give Feedback. Separate the person and the problem – so that, the person can change the behaviour to correct future events. Also when you do this, you as the person giving the feedback is making it clear that the problem is not with the person or his intentions. If he changes his behaviors, he can change his results.
Giving and Receiving feedback is an important life skill. The world would be a much more open, happy place if all of us were to master this skill.
Go ahead – try these few steps and let me know how it goes for you. One last tip from a veteran: Don’t fear feedback especially from people whose opinions you respect. Ask for it and learn from it. Feedback can take you to great places. You will become a better YOU with feedback.
I look forward to hearing your feedback!