Giving Feedback The Right Way

giving feedbackWhat happens in people’s brains when they receive feedback? It’s hard for human beings to feel they are wrong and it is even harder for them to hear that from others. There is a primal, psychological reason for this. Our brains view criticism as a threat to our survival. Because our brains are ready to protect us at all costs, they go out of their way to make sure we always feel like we’re in the right—even when we’re not…

Criticism can feel like a threat to our very survival—no wonder it’s so tough to hear and also to give. In the book Why Feedback Doesn’t Work, the author Charles Jacobs claims says that when information conflicts with our self-image, our instinct is to first change the information, not ourselves.

Research also shows that human beings have what is called a negativity bias which means negative information has much more impact than positive information. This is why when you praise someone, they will like it but when you criticize someone, they will not forget it.

So how does one handle the delicate task of giving feedback? The solution is to not get personal, to state what is in a way that does not threaten or diminish the person receiving the feedback.

Here is what is essential in giving feedback:

-Be factual and objective. State your observations
-Ask questions. Create an environment that provides context instead of firing from the hip.
-Don’t pretend to be pleasant and happy; stay calm and positive.
-Refrain from anger or recrimination. This adds to the threat.
-Don’t get personal at any cost. Focus on the behavior, not the person
-Provide information on what the impact of the other’s behavior is. The person receiving the feedback may not know this.
-Provide guidance, direction and help in clarifying what the expected behavior or performance is.
-Don’t lecture or preach.
-Don’t go on and on. Keep the feedback brief and to the point.
-Don’t expect immediate change – just provide an opportunity for that to happen.
-Don’t feel obliged to influence the outcome. You cannot change people. Only they can change themselves.
-Suggest a time for review and thank the person for the interaction.

To learn more about the process of feedback and communication skills in general, you may want to consider registering for the MDi Pakistan training on High Impact Communication Skills