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Receiving feedback doesn’t come naturally for most people.

Our default reaction is to block, get defensive and deny we could be wrong, flawed, or must improve!

Instead of staying in control and listening openly without becoming defensive, we move into flight/flight and allow our emotions to run the ship.

At those times, feedback leaves us enraged, agitated, or demotivated. This type of feedback gets us on our feet, hearts racing, fists clenched – even tears welling up in our eyes.

So, what can we do?

As a leader, it’s challenging enough to give feedback. While some feedback can be rewarding – like praise – often, feedback leaves people feeling offended and exposed.

In those cases, the feedback does more harm than good.

I often coach my clients on appropriate types of feedback and how to deliver it effectively. Here are three types of feedback and what to do to reduce the risk of a backfire.

  1. Identity

The most difficult feedback to deliver involves the person’s identity. Yes, there’s truth to the saying we’re all built differently – not everyone is wired the same. But most people don’t want to hear they are “different.”

Instead, you should always do your homework and turn an identity issue into a behaviour issue.

They don’t respect deadlines? Talk about the most recent missed deadline.

They appear negative in meetings. Express your curiosity about what they think.

  1. Truth

Telling someone they are wrong is a guaranteed direct line to resistance. The truth isn’t always easy to swallow, especially based on someone else’s observation.

It doesn’t matter how true your statement about the other person is; if they feel it’s utterly false and off-base, there’s no way you will convince them otherwise.

They will feel offended and unwilling to accept any of your following statements.

The solution is to describe a recent behaviour and then ask a question.

They claimed they followed up with a client but actually didn’t. Tell them what you know about the truth and then ask if they are mistaken.

Did they miss a project milestone? Describe what you know to be true and then ask them what happened.

Your objective should be to find a solution, not to make them wrong.

  1. Relationship

Of all the triggers, this is perhaps the trickiest. Feedback about your relationship is typically blocked not because of its validity or the person receiving it lacks the mental strength to accept it, but because the relationship between the person giving the feedback and the recipient is tainted.

If you are the last person this individual wants to be hearing feedback from, they will ignore you and detach themselves from the session. Maybe you’ve not earned their respect or had an altercation with them in the past, causing them to judge your authority.

Whatever the situation, feedback dished out by someone they don’t trust or disrespect will likely be snubbed.

The solution is to (again) describe something you observed that they can agree with and then ask about the relationship. When you start with a mutually agreed truth, you start the conversation with an agreement.

Better solutions

Fortunately, there are ways around these triggers. And if a triggered reaction has already caused feedback to be blocked, there’s still a chance to rectify the situation by scheduling a second feedback session. And this time, you will approach it prepared.

If you need more guidance on avoiding the discussed types of feedback triggers, I believe I can help you build on your leadership strengths. Connect with me if you’d like to learn more about how I have helped people transform their leadership skills through coaching techniques and highly personalized programs.

Enjoyed this article. Here are three more to help advance your leadership success:

4 way to connect, influence and lead better
3 Steps to Master the Art of Coaching Others
How to give feedback people want to receive

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Inscape Consulting Group
Greg Nichvalodoff, BSc. BM (Honors), MBA, PCC, CMC
Office: 604.943.0800
Mobile: 604.831.4734