Can I give you some feedback?

That’s a question which creates a little (or a lot) of stress for most of us… there’s just something about the inherent threat to safety we’re wired to feel as human beings… or you’ve had a bad feedback experience in your career.

When you’re the one asking for feedback, you have a slight advantage… maybe. Let’s face it— it’s stressful either way.

So what does this mean if you’re tasked with giving feedback? Or let’s say it’s important to your working relationship to confront some not so great interactions with your colleague?

How can feedback be delivered so the stress levels remain positive for learning rather than distressful, especially when corrective feedback (suggestions for improvement, explorations of new and better ways to do things or pointing out something that was done in a less than optimal way) needs to happen?

In this article…

You’ll have 8 ways to deliver corrective feedback so you can keep stress and defensiveness lowered while motivating others so they cheer for more!

Let’s start with a feedback story from my career…

#1– Consider the impact of status (attractiveness, reputation, power and material worth).

He got into the passenger side of my 1986 Maserati Bi-turbo 425 sedan and I drove us to the 5 star restaurant for the luncheon meeting I had arranged. He admired my car. (I normally drove a red Honda Civic Si to work.)

I was the Clinical Program Director of a hospital unit. He was the Medical Director who hired me a year ago. I was 30 something… he was 40-something.

I wanted to give him feedback about our working relationship. I wanted his full attention.

Positive experiences were easy to share. Describing his recent lack of support was more difficult although I had rehearsed what I was going to say, including specific behavior change requests.  I wanted to let him know I didn’t need the job. I wanted the job, but I didn’t need it.

He listened. He understood. We agreed to keep working together.

I paid for our lunch with a $100 dollar bill.

Our mutual respect strengthened from that day forward.

I was talking to my boss. His scholarly, professional achievements were many. I purposefully chose to elevate my status materially– the car, wearing a conservative designer dress, the restaurant, paying with cash rather than a credit card. It was my intent to elevate the seriousness of my message.

Receiving feedback from someone sitting behind a desk can be intimidating for some. Choosing to meet around a table in an office or in a conference room may be a good, neutralizing alternative when you’re the boss or manager talking to a subordinate.

It’s worthwhile to consider the impact of status to minimize your feedback recipient’s stress level. It might bolster up your message as well.

#2– Share intent before the feedback meeting.

I’d like to get your feedback on how the presentation went yesterday and talk about my contribution–what worked and what didn’t work for you as well as things that did and didn’t work from my perspective. Okay?

For the people who prefer to deliberate and think before speaking, this is gold!

Stress is still present, but it is definitely less with knowledge of the feedback intention.

#3– Build and improve on ideas without using judgmental language.

Because our brains are always scanning for judgmental language during feedback (which stirs up defensiveness), Peter Sims, author of Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries suggests a strategy he calls, “Plussing.”

He suggests using  words like “and” or the phrase–“what if” rather than “but.”

So, That’s a good idea, BUT you’ve neglected to figure in the costs of additional staff  becomes That’s a good idea. WHAT IF we add in the costs of additional staff as well.

Smooth and friendly… don’t you think?

#4– Serve a Praise Sandwich–Italian style.

This is the idea that negative feedback be stuffed between 2 slices of compliments.

A critique of this method is that people only hear the compliments partly because the corrective information isn’t specific.

Keeping with the basic sandwich metaphor, here’s a remedy:

I’d suggest you serve an Italian sandwich with  layers of provolone cheese and prosciutto rather than a tuna or chicken salad. Keep the corrective feedback clear and simple like slices of cheese and meat rather than a stuffing of a delicious salad mix full of this and that.

‘Viva l’Italia!’

#5– Build the relationship with appreciation and positive interactions.

Everyone benefits from appreciative, positive interactions… that’s the foundation for a good relationship.

We know that people who are relatively new to work benefit from more positives while the seasoned expert is likely to thrive and welcome critique, although I think experts enjoy positives too.

The ratio of 5:1 works. Giving 5 positive interactions to every negative interaction is a formula worth implementing at work and home.

#6– I’ve got a few more suggestions… you’re not finished yet. 😉

Yes, I’m talking to YOU, my dear reader!

Here’s the suggestion: attach the word yet to your feedback.

It’s an idea from Jocelyn K. Glei’s article, How to Give Negative Feedback Over Email — (which really isn’t a very good idea due to the absence of social cues!)

However, back to the point… use yet whenever possible.

The message of the little 3 letter word  is:  you are close… you’re on the right track… keep at it.

Instead of: You haven’t captured all the ideas I want you to get becomes: You haven’t captured all of the ideas I want you to get yet.

Nice. Try it. Add yet.

#7– Emphasize PROGRESS because our brains love a sense of completion!

Another Jocelyn Glei point I think is so simple yet profoundly effective.

Isn’t it true— it’s motivating to know the end is near! (That’s right… you’re not done reading yet, only one more!)

So, communicate PROGRESS so that your recipient can say, If I complete this, I’ll be moving forward.

#8– Get yourself in a good place before you say anything.

Giving feedback is important and can be emotionally draining and exhilarating. Do all those wonderful, loving self-care steps before AND after giving corrective feedback.

You deserve your own thoughtfulness.

Here’s your takeaway…

Enjoy delivering corrective feedback by following these 8 ways so that any defensiveness is lowered and people feel motivated, anticipating your future feedback!

Give me an F… give me an E… give me another E! (you know where this is going…)

We want your feedback!

Please comment… I love to learn from you!

Got a work puzzle you’re eager to solve?

Connect with me… let’s arrange a quick strategy meeting and get the positive results adding up!