Do you have feedback phobia?

Feedback is really important to us as it’s at the heart of our ability to learn. But yet we hate giving it and always dread being on the receiving end…

As people we all develop a positive view of ourselves, it’s essential; for our survival and emotional well-being. We all have some weaknesses we admit to, some we know about but don’t want to acknowledge, and others we’re unaware of.

Feedback helps us to learn by increasing our self-awareness of these weaknesses. It gives us a more accurate picture of how others perceive us.

Positive feedback helps to reinforce that image and drive our confidence.

But negative feedback can damage that ideal, it can cause us pain and we can consider it as a threat

I’m sure you can all remember an example of when you’ve been given feedback in the past that has questioned how you’d thought about yourself, changed your perception of how you behave, and how you felt receiving it. Not comfortable I’d suspect. It’s those feelings and memories that mean we can be frightened to both give feedback to others, and to receive it.

Feedback doesn’t have to be all bad through, firstly it’s great to give someone positive feedback, to praise them for something that’s been done really well or recognise some improvements.

There are also several benefits giving feedback gives you as a manager:

    • Show your team that you’re interested in them & their performance
    • Help your team to develop
    • Opportunity to change unwanted behaviours

There are different ways of approaching feedback, but it’s received positively if you can achieve the following:

  • The recipient believes you’re on their side and wants to help them
  • You give a good balance of positive and negative feedback over time
  • Your feedback is fair, and you’ve looked at all the information
  • You enter into a discussion where the recipient can openly give their point of view
  • You continue to support the person, whatever is agreed in the discussion

And giving feedback in this way isn’t as hard as you think, and it’s something that gets even easier with practice!

The most important thing about feedback is that you give it in a way that’s constructive & helpful. To make sure, I’d recommend you use the following as a checklist:

  • The feedback is going to benefit the recipient (not achieve something for you)
  • You’re aiming to achieve a specific objective
  • The timing is appropriate & the incident or behaviour is still fresh, but you’ve had a chance to gather evidence and think it through
  • You present the feedback in a way that can be used
  • You have time to discuss the feedback without interruptions
  • You’re prepared to listen as well as talk through 2-way dialogue
  • You’re discussing a behaviour that the recipient can change
  • You have all the info you need about the situation / examples of the behaviour
  • You provide an opportunity for follow up on what you’ve agreed

When giving any feedback you should prepare what you want to say in advance. Showing you’ve prepared will make them more likely to listen and you’ll feel more comfortable with what you have to say.

Open the dialogue by referencing the event or behaviour and explaining that once you’ve outlined the situation you’d like to hear their point of view so you’re showing that you want to work with them to find a solution & reduce their anxiety of what’s to come.

And try to express the feedback as your point of view, rather than a hard truth. As an opinion or an observation.

You may also want to position the feedback in terms of options for them to consider rather than a choice scenario as they will be more likely to open up in a discussion where they don’t feel it’s a win or lose scenario.

Finally, it’s worth considering the amount of feedback you give in any one session, bite size chunks can be much easier to digest and you’re more likely to see barriers appear if the recipient feels the objective is too challenging or they can’t see how to achieve it.

Once you become more comfortable giving feedback, you’ll also become more comfortable receiving it.

You’ll understand the whole process better helping you to lower your defences and allow yourself to listen to what the person’s saying, suppress the urge to fight back and justify your actions but wait for the right opportunity to respond with calm feedback, and use the support of the other person to develop some actions to help you change in the future.

They’re giving you something really valuable… an opportunity to learn, develop and become even better at your job than you are today.

And none of us are perfect, however much we like to think we are!

I’d love to hear what works for you in terms of giving or receiving feedback, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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