Now, imagine yourself about to have a conversation with them about this thing that’s been bugging you.
I bet you feel warm and fuzzy, brimming with anticipation to have this conversation.
Many of us hate the thought of giving feedback so much that we go to great lengths to avoid having the conversation. We may try other strategies to change their behavior that don’t involve actually directly talking to them about it: avoid them; hint about what bothers us; talk to other people about them; or–my personal favorite–resent them for the thing they don’t even realize they’re doing.
Perhaps, if you’re a manager, you just store up all the examples until annual performance review, where you do a surprise macabre unveiling.
That always works out well.
Why do we do this?
Are we cowards? Cruel? I don’t think that’s really it.
I think we fear that someone will get hurt. And most of us don’t relish the thought of causing pain.
There’s lots of advice about do’s and dont’s of feedback. We have a Brilliance Inc feedback delivery model: 5 steps in 30 seconds.*
But I want to talk about something more important than technique.
You can follow all the steps you learned in Management 101 training, but if you don’t have the right mindset, you’ll fail to inspire new behaviors and you may cause more harm than good to your relationship and their engagement.
If you enter the conversation worried about causing injury, how might that affect your delivery?
You’re likely to be unclear, uncomfortable, and defensive. Plus, you’ll unconsciously deliver the message through your body language and energy that there’s something to fear. No wonder people want to hide under the desk when they hear the dreaded phrase, “Can I give you some feedback?” Bombs away!!!!!!!!!!!
A New Context About Feedback
What would happen–to you, to your message, to them–if you shifted your intention? If you entered the conversation as though you were about to unveil a gift? A gift that will help this person grow and improve how other perceive him. A gift that others were not confident or generous enough to give.
You’d likely be more at ease and they wouldn’t detect any wonky nervousness that signals a subconscious warning to raise defenses.
A Graceless Gift
I will never forget a bit of feedback I received early in my career. I was 23, a month on the job in Corporate Finance at Oracle, when the Controller stopped about a 2 feet in front of me, pointed at my mouth and said, “We have a dental plan, you know.”
I had gotten so used to my front tooth, broken when I was 8, now discolored and misshapen, that I failed to notice it. Yet, it was one of the first things people saw when I spoke or smiled. And I was so used to living on a student budget, fixing it wasn’t even on my radar.
Was his delivery graceful? No. But it was authentic and carried no ill will. Plus, his very direct approach showed that he thought enough of me to give it and enough of my confidence to say it bluntly.
Was I mortified? Perhaps. I don’t remember. I do remember that within a month, I had a new, gorgeous, tooth. And that was a true gift.
I’m not suggesting you go around directly pointing out flaws. Just stop agonizing about getting the words perfect. You’re likely to stress yourself out unnecessarily and delay (possibly permanently) delivering the helpful feedback. Instead, talk with them today, bringing an intention that you care, and that you come bearing a gift.
Good intention trumps technique every time. Technique with good intention is brilliance.
Unlearn all your bad feedback habits and learn how to deliver a great message in 5 simple steps and under 30 seconds. In this free video series you’ll learn the secrets to giving feedback that sticks, including what words and phrases you NEVER want to say, and what to replace them with. In less than 25 minutes, you will have all our tips and tools that help our Executive clients give feedback that gets heard and acted upon. Click to get access to the videos now!
Let us know how it goes or what questions you have!
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