In the last few weeks, we’ve explored how to receive and integrate feedback that you receive on your performance or behavior. Today, we are going to look to the other side of the equation and explore how to provide effective feedback to others.
As with receiving feedback, there are specific steps to take that will help you to provide feedback to another person in a way that will minimize defensiveness, create an opportunity for discussion, and allow for the greatest impact.
There are 5 Steps to Providing Effective Feedback
1. Ask the person if they are open to hearing some feedback about their behavior. (Unless this feedback is a required part of your job or theirs, you will have the most impact if they agree to the feedback.) If they say yes, proceed. If they say no, stop and say something like “OK, I respect your wishes and if it would ever be helpful to hear some feedback on your impact, please let me know.”
2. Describe the behavior as objectively as possible – like you might describe a scene in a movie, so that they can see if from your eyes. Say things like, “I have noticed that you have….” Or, “It has been brought to my attention that you haven’t….” Avoid the use of the word ALWAYS and NEVER; use of these words detract from the credibility of your feedback and can easily create defensiveness.
3. Share examples of the behavior. Write your examples down ahead of time and have more than one example ready for each behavior you want to address in step 2. Use an objective tone to recount the times when you have seen the behavior in action.
4. Share the impact of their behavior as you see it. Say something like, “It seems that … ,” “I find myself feeling….”
It is very important that you own your experience of their behavior. It would be inappropriate to say, “You make me feel…” since, despite what most of us believe, no one can make us feel anything – it is our interpretation of the behavior that causes the feeling. (In a job related feedback setting, you should explain clearly how the behavior relates to their job performance.)
5. Ask them if they have any questions that will help them more fully understand your feedback and then suggest meeting again in a few days to further discuss the feedback after they have had some time to absorb and reflect on the information given.
The purpose of giving feedback is to support someone in learning how their behaviors impact others. Whether or not they choose to accept the feedback is outside your scope of power, but providing it effectively can go a long way toward having a positive interaction.