How to Have Tough Conversations & Give Useful Feedback

Learn why we have trouble with this type of conversation and discover 7 ways to ensure you always give fair, objective feedback when it’s needed.Don’t you love to receive praise and commendation? It feels so good. However, receiving, and even giving, criticism hurts. Even though feedback is supposed to makes us better at work and in life, we perceive it to be negative, because there’s a potential to hurt someone’s feelings or even destroy our relationship with them. That’s what makes these conversations so difficult.

Our unconscious biases contribute to this problem. They interfere with giving, and receiving, effective feedback. Your feelings about a person greatly impact how and what you say. For example, if you feel someone needs nurturing, you become gentler. If someone irritates you, you become blunter. Your biases may be influenced by so many things, like a person’s position, gender, financial status, familial relationship, or even looks.

If you want to give fair, objective feedback, first ask yourself, “Why am I giving this feedback?”

It’s helpful to identify what motivates you to give feedback. Are you lashing out and trying to settle a score? Or are you sincerely trying to help someone become a better person? Or does your motivation fit somewhere in between?

You can ensure you’re giving the most helpful feedback possible by remembering the 7 keys to giving thoughtful and objective feedback:

  1. Regularly give commendation, so criticism is easier to take, when it’s needed.
  2. Rather than focusing on personality flaws or differences, focus on actionable items that can be implemented immediately.
  3. Get all the facts. Before commenting, make sure you understand the whole situation.
  4. Be very specific about what’s wrong and what can be done to fix it.
  5. If you do have to give feedback on a personality trait, give specific examples of how the trait affected the task or situation at hand and how specific improvements can be made.
  6. Gather your courage to speak, by clearly defining your reasons for giving feedback. Holding back doesn’t benefit anyone.
  7. Bounce your criticism off of a trusted colleague first, but frame it as a conversation about professional development, not naming names or even hinting, so it doesn’t devolve into gossip.

A way to double check your feedback, to make sure it isn’t biased, is to ask yourself, “Would I give this feedback to anyone else in this situation?” When others see that you’re striving to be fair in your feedback, they’ll be more open to accepting it. And when you strive to see the intent of feedback given to you, it becomes easier to accept.

As a family business coach, I love helping families make it work at home and at work. If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

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