By Cara Parker, Leadership Development Consultant and Owner of C Parker Consulting
Most of us dread the question, “May I give you some feedback?” Often, in the workplace, this inquiry is followed by some vague discussion that leaves both parties (the giver and receiver) leaving the conversation singing off different sheets of music. The giver has a feeling of, “I set him/her straight” and the receiver often feels confused or irritated. There is a better way to manage this dichotomy.
Let’s start with some semantics unfortunately rooted in polarization:
- There are 2 parties: the giver and receiver
- There are 2 goals: reinforce or change behavior
- There are 2 types of feedback: confirmatory or constructive
Wouldn’t it be great if we could finesse the process so it’s not so polarized – where both parties have a connected dialogue an both leave feeling valued, appreciated, and wanting to do better?
Let’s get practical on constructive feedback: The beauty of dialogue is that it is ongoing – it implies there is a relationship in place. Relationships form the foundation for all interactions. When you are the giver, be succinct. Keep your language clear and concise based on observed behaviors – that YOU have observed first hand. Assume positive intent and describe the preferred behavior. Avoid giving too many suggestions at one time. Here’s the dialogue part: Ask for their input and observations. They don’t have to agree. Invite a conversation.
When you are the receiver of constructive feedback, listen and don’t interrupt. If you are not clear, ask for clarity. Acknowledge the feedback and keep your emotions in check and don’t get defensive. Afterwards, spend some time in reflection by asking yourself a few questions: Was the feedback valid? What was the context in which the behavior was observed? What changes do I need to take? What follow up is needed?
Let’s get practical on confirmatory feedback: When you are giving positive feedback, be specific and sincere. Provide the context and the impact of the behavior. Cite the person’s strengths and praise their effort. Don’t be stingy when handing out positive input. When you are receiving good feedback, thank the deliverer. Own the compliments and express appreciation they were shared. As with constructive, spend some time in reflection. Ask yourself: why was this behavior perceived as helpful? What skills do I possess that led to this desired outcome? How can I strengthen those skills?
In all these dichotomies, the common thread is dialogue. Whether you are a giver or receiver, be sure to host and encourage the dialogue. This approach helps build the conversation and strengths the relationship. Try it out!