How to Give Feedback
- Lead with intent. “The reason I am telling you this is …. I am hoping the result of this conversation will be ….”
- Have a conversation. View the conversation as a two-way exchange, not a one-way dump.
- Understand the goal. The purpose of constructive feedback is to encourage the other to move into a problem-solving conversation with you, not to “change” for you. The purpose of complimentary feedback is to help the other more fully own and leverage their strengths.
- Focus on the behavior. Discuss its impact on you and/or your organization.
- Language matters. Avoid attributions or labels such as “you are insensitive.” Do not make up stories about why they act in a certain way, such as “you don’t care.” Use “I” language instead of “You” language, but remember that saying “I feel that you are insensitive” and “I feel that you don’t care” is cheating.
- Use inquiry. Ask what the other person hears you saying. Ask what is important to them. Ask what they need in return from you.
- Reframe. Maintain the mental model that feedback is a gift — it is data. And more data is always better because it provides us with choices we wouldn’t otherwise have.
How to Be a Good Receiver of Feedback
- Tamp down your defensiveness. Avoid justifying, explaining, or making the other person wrong. Remember that feedback is data and having data is better than not having it because it expands our choices and results in healthier relationships.
- Become curious. Tell yourself: “This person is upset with something I do. If I can figure out what that is, I can move toward solving the problem.”
- Repeat. Ask questions. “So, I hear that you are really annoyed and think I am not committed. Yes? It would be helpful to me if I understood what it is that I do that results in you feeling that way.”
- Signal that you understand. “I hear that the fact that sometimes I don’t respond to your texts for several days is what leaves you feeling that I am not committed.” This is better than getting into an argument about whether or not you are committed.
- Thank the giver. At some level they care enough to say something.
- Know when to stop. It is OK, and even preferable, to say when you need to take a break and negotiate a time to return to the conversation. The giver may have waited until he or she was really upset before saying anything, and therefore it is often easier to take the issues a bit at a time.