“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”
– Bill Gates
It’s true that feedback helps us improve and become better at what we do. Unfortunately, this depends on the success of a feedback conversation. Not all feedback is taken positively and a number of factors influence how a feedback discussion will affect the person receiving it.
If you are the one giving feedback, you want it to help the other person improve. To ensure that your feedback is taken positively, you need to consider the following barriers to an effective feedback conversation.
- Your emotions, feelings or sensations that arise during the conversation
During a feedback conversation, difficult emotions, feelings and sensations can arise from all parties involved. And these feelings can negatively impact the conversation. More specifically these emotions and feelings can prevent you from delivering an effective feedback conversation and prevent the other person from positively receiving your feedback.
To ensure your difficult emotions will not negatively impact your feedback conversation, you need to learn how to deal with these feelings and sensations and how to manage them. Dr. Jenny Brockis suggests that we need to learn to acknowledge these difficult emotions and feelings. Jenny says “When we hear what we feel, it helps us to reset our emotions and regain balance and perspective.”
- The other party’s difficult emotions, feelings or sensations
In a feedback conversation, you are not the only one to feel difficult emotions and feelings. At some point in the conversation, the other person may feel these feelings as well. Dan Shapiro in his book, Beyond Reason, recommends several techniques to help you effectively deal with the other person’s difficult emotions.
- Recognise their feelings and validate their concerns. Listen with empathy as they let out their emotions and discuss how they feel about the feedback. You’ll be surprised how this can help reduce the intensity of their emotions.
- Take time out from the conversation. When feelings and emotions become too strong to discuss, it might be time for you and the other party to take a break from the conversation. This will help both parties to gather their thoughts and think about how they can become more cooperative in the conversation.
- Avoid making assumptions. If you want to know the real reason why the other person is upset, simply ask them what you did to upset them. Show the other person that you want to understand what they are feeling and that you want to try and help them
- Your relationship with the other party
There are times when the reaction to the feedback is not because of or about the feedback. Sometimes, it can be about the other person’s relationship to the one giving feedback. According to a Harvard Business Review, reaction to feedback can be based on what we think about the other person’s skills and judgement and their credibility and whether we trust their motives and share their values.
- Resistance in yourself and the other party
Resistance is the gap between where the other person is and where you think they should be. There are some preparations that you need to keep in mind to help you deal with resistance and ensure an effective feedback conversation.
- Be aware of any prejudices or preconceived ideas that you may bring to the discussion and try and leave them out.
- Be aware of your body language, your passive or aggressive body language, your “lack of interest body language”.
- Be mindful of the choice of language. If we use too soft language, we could be perceived as being passive and lose credibility. Alternatively, if we use too hard language, we will be perceived as hard-nosed and being too direct.
Whatever your goal is when giving feedback, keep in mind that it is about getting the best out of people. Being aware of these barriers and strategies to deal with them will ensure you give effective feedback.