A few years ago, my husband gave me a gym membership. It’s something I needed and wanted, but it was still a bit of a surprise.
Did he think I was fat? Did he not love and admire my beautiful self anymore? Or was it something else entirely?
Turns out he saw how hard I work, putting long hours in the office and then even more hours in the evening, all sitting at a computer. He’s read the studies about sedentary lifestyles and has been thinking about being an empty-nester.
Turns out he wants to spend time with me doing fun things that are going to take some physical strength—like hiking Half Dome in Yosemite!
Constructive feedback can be hard to give and hard to receive. Here are 3 ways to make giving feedback a bit easier.
Be aware of your own feelings and intentions. Are you angry? Frustrated? Worried that your feedback will derail the receiver? Nervous about giving feedback? There are lots of reasons we avoid giving feedback—and our own mindset plays a big part in how the feedback will be received. Be aware of this and manage it effectively. Trust me; my husband would never say “You look fat in those jeans”—but he does notice if I complain about being out of breath when I take a quick walk around the block with the dog.
Here are 3 lines to say to yourself in preparation for giving feedback.
- Describe your feelings about the upcoming feedback: “I’m feeling…”
- State how you want to feel: “I want to feel…”
- Be clear about your intentions: “I’m giving feedback because…”
3½. (Bonus tip): take a couple of deep breaths before the feedback conversation.
Be authentic. Yes, it’s an overused word, but that’s because it’s effective. Even though feedback isn’t all about you, your feelings and thoughts do play a critical role in the conversation. My husband bought the membership but never said “Hey, let’s plan a romantic getaway to Yosemite. I want you to enjoy it, and I’m concerned that right now you won’t be able to.”
Share what you are feeling, but sparingly. Try variations of these 3 statements:
- “I care about you, and I’m a bit (feeling) about giving you feedback.”
- “I want (desired outcome) for us in this conversation.”
- “I think (a thought about giving feedback).” Example: “I think this feedback will help us work together more effectively.”
Listen, listen, listen. The person receiving feedback may have an emotional reaction. They may want to process their feelings by explaining context, or they may just need to talk through the feedback. Ask these 3 questions—and follow with deep listening.
- “Can you say more about that?”
- “If you were to do something differently in the future, what would it be?”
- “What can I do to help us avoid this in the future?”
When I didn’t act excited about the gym membership, my husband was surprised—until he listened to my thoughts and feelings about it. The more he heard from me, the more chagrined he was. His ability to listen gave us the opportunity to have a really great conversation. Now we are on the same page—and Yosemite was fabulous!
About the Author
Patricia Overland is a Coaching Solutions Partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.