How important are feedbacks in our lives? Most of us don’t even realize that only if we could give feedback in the right way and listen to it in a right way – most of our conflicts would be resolved right there.
“How do I make her understand that the way she behaves with the team – it makes the team feel cornered? It makes them believe that their ideas are not important and they always need to get her approval for every small thing.” I said this when I was talking to one of my senior colleagues about a difficult situation with another colleague. And he said “You need to tell her this”. My first reaction to this was “I cannot. She is senior to me.” And he said “So what? Her behavior is affecting you and the team. Just tell her”. I was totally confused and said “How?”
That was when I listened to the art of giving feedback. Feedback is not criticism, it is not blame. It is a very simple way of telling the other person that his/her behavior is not working for you and we need to find a way to make it work. Isn’t that one of the most difficult things to do in the world?
When he explained this to me, it felt quite easy to do but I hit my first roadblock when I started to prepare for the feedback session. It is not easy to do. It needs courage and lots of practice to get comfortable for giving feedbacks. I soon realized that these principles can be applied when I want to convey to my husband as well about something that I did not like in his behavior. And that’s when I really felt empowered to try this out. After all, I really needed a way to tell him things that bother me without having a fight with him.
“You are just so irresponsible? You cannot even take care of our son for a couple of hours?”
“How can you not come a bit early at least some evenings? Do you realize that there is something called work-life balance also?”
“That dress totally makes you look fat. Why do you have to wear it at all?”
“You did not have the courtesy to even call me once a week. What kind of a daughter does that?”
These are some examples of blames floating around in our relationships all the time. Mostly this is the language in which we give and receive feedback. It is filled with criticism, judgment and ridicule. Is it possible to say such things in a much nicer way that the other person actually feels motivated to change himself/herself?
Art of giving feedback
- Choose a time to talk when you and the other person are physically and mentally available to talk. Ensure that the other person is open to listen and receive feedback.
- Do it usually after a particular incident
- Be factual. Do not give generic statements like “You are irresponsible” or “You don’t care”. Tell the person in facts and/or incidents what exactly is bothering you.
- Be personal. Tell the person what his/her behavior does to you and your feelings. Start the statement with “I feel that ….” When you do this, the person knows that it is the feelings that you are talking about and that does not make a person feel judged.
- Be positive. Do not blame or be critical. Take examples from the past of how that person’s behavior in a similar situation helped you.
- Prepare well. Talk to yourself and make sure that you have your points ready before you move on to talk to the person
- Do not bring up things that happened months or years ago. Do not use this as an opportunity to dig out graves. Talk about the incidents that are happening now or happened in recent past.
- Don’t judge. All of us make millions of mistakes. There is no reason for you to judge the other person.
- Don’t try to explain why the other person behaves this way. That is for him/her to think about.
- Don’t force solutions. You can always give your suggestions but make sure that the other person in the right mind to listen to the suggestions.
- Don’t talk for the group. Feedback is supposed to be personal, so you are only supposed to tell the other person what it does to you – not to the whole team or family or kids.
This might look like a huge list but it is only a matter of practice and then you don’t have to remember all of these – it would just come naturally to you.
Feedbacks are important because if they are not given and acted upon at the right time, it leads to frustration, anger and issues in the relationship. Conflicts become hard boundaries that jeopardize the relationships. So, do not underestimate the power of feedbacks.
Art of receiving feedback
- Make sure that you are open to listen to whatever is coming your way.
- If you do not understand – don’t just pretend that you do. Ask questions and clarify the situations right there.
- Tell the other person that you have understood the message.
- Do not interrupt or disqualify the person giving you the feedback.
- Don’t get defensive or start arguing.
- Don’t try to force an agreement on the observations.
- Be thankful to the person who is giving you a feedback.
These are some of the points to be kept in mind when somebody gives you a feedback.
Sometimes feedback that comes your way might not in the form that you expect especially in your personal life, but then if you do not get defensive – you can still try to find the message in that feedback. Remember that the person gives you a feedback only because he/she cares about you as a person and about your relationship with him/her.
Next time think about the art of giving feedback this way when you are hurt by somebody close to you. Try it out and have fun!