How to deliver feedback without arguments

Feedback is one of the most essential skills in life. It is not realistic to expect that everything will always go as planned for you. If you want to correct the errors, or make sure that things improve, you must be able to deliver feedback effectively. When you deliver feedback you are usually commenting on somebody else’s performance. This requires a degree of emotional maturity and sensitivity to ensure that the recipient does not take it personal. After all, when you deliver feedback effectively, you are aiming to help both parties – you get the result that you are looking for and the other person gets some valuable information which helps them improve their performance in future. It really is a win-win situation; if you deliver feedback in the appropriate manner.

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How to deliver feedback effectively

The following is not an exhaustive list but if you adhere to these principles you will deliver feedback more effectively, in a manner which the recipient is happy to hear. The end result will be improved results, improved performance, happier relationships and reduced stress.

1. Stay focused

Deliver feedback Benjamin Franklin

Every time you deliver feedback, you should have a clear purpose and a precise message that you want to get across. To make sure that this feedback gets delivered effectively, you need to say focused on your message. Before beginning the conversation, remove any potential distractions. During the conversation, if you find yourself getting distracted, make any necessary adjustments to bring your focus back to the conversation at hand.

There is an old saying that failing to prepare is preparing to fail. When you wish to deliver feedback, you really should keep this saying in mind. When you are not prepared, you will allow the conversation to slip away from its point of focus. This is where there is a real danger of feedback becoming emotional and reactionary. Conflict is a real possibility. Know the purpose of the feedback and make some notes to ensure you stick to it.

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2. Beware of your body language and characteristics

Deliver feedback Ralph Waldo Emerson (1)

When you deliver feedback, it is imperative that you send a clear message that you are open to discussion and willing to listen. There will be periods, during the feedback, where you are the listener.  It is easy to become frustrated, angry, bored etc. but if you find yourself feeling this way; you can be sure that you are going to transmit that to the other person. If this occurs, they will close the conversation down and it will become impossible to get your message across.

I have been in many conversations where the other person had no interest in what I had to say. And their body language communicated that very message. I wasn’t in a two-way conversation; I was being talked at; with the expectation that I would just shut up and listen. This made it difficult for me to engage fully in the conversation.

Remember that the purpose of feedback is not to demonstrate control or authority. It is to improve behaviour and future outcomes. You can’t make someone change so; it needs to be a two-way process. Your body language should demonstrate that you are open and willing to listen.

Related

For clearer, more assertive communication check out my article on 12 Assertive Behaviours.


3. Avoid the barriers to communication

Deliver feedback Reuel Howe

There are common behaviours which act as barriers to communication.  When you adopt these behaviours, you demonstrate that you do not value the other person’s opinion. You come across as authoritarian and what started out as feedback soon becomes dictates and commands. While this may reap some short term rewards, in the long term, your relationships deteriorate and people no longer wish to work with you.

I reiterate that when you deliver feedback, it can not be about authority or control. There are several common barriers to good communication which will prevent a beneficial conversation from taking place. In addition to this, it pays to be aware of any bad communication habits you may have, which can cause irritation to others.

For example, I had an old boss who would start feedback by telling you were a valuable team member, in the most patronising and condescending tone. It really sounded like he was reading it from a cheap management textbook. This was an immediate turn off.

Related

For a comprehensive discussion of the most common barriers to communication check out my article on 9 Conversation Killers.


4. Approach with an open mind

Deliver feedback George Bernard Shaw

When you deliver feedback, you should definitely approach with a clear objective in mind; a clear message that you want to transmit. While you stay focused on that message, it is best that you maintain an open mind as to how best that objective can be achieved. Too often, managers and people in senior positions dictate to others. They tell them exactly what to do in order to achieve the desired outcome. I would take issue with this. In fact, there are 2 important questions to ask here:

  • What if the manager does not know best?
  • How is the employee supposed to learn from being dictated too?

I recommend an alternative approach. Before dictating to the employee, ask them for their ideas on how to achieve the objective. When you adopt this approach the employee feels more engaged, they learn better from having to think for themselves and in many cases, they can produce a better idea than the manager. Management is not about dictating to people; it is about bringing the best out of people. Of coruse, this principle can be applied to any relationship, not just management-employee relathionships.

When you approach feedback with an open-mind, patience and flexibility; you deliver feedback more effectively and you foster better, more productive relationships.

Before dictating to an employee, ask for their ideas . When you adopt this approach the employee feels more engaged, they learn better from having to think for themselves and, they may produce a better idea than the manager.

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5. Mix it up

Deliver feedback Criss Jami

Another fault which many managers make with feedback is that they only attempt to deliver constructive feedback. Their employees only hear from them when something goes wrong. This creates great negativity in the relationships and, if it happens too frequently, it closes down the channels of communication.

There is another type of feedback – positive feedback. Every time that you catch somebody doing something right, you should acknowledge it.  When you deliver both constructive and positive feedback, the recipient sees the bigger picture. They know what they are doing right and they attempt to replicate that behaviour. When correction is required, they understand that it is not personal and they are more open and receptive to it.

However, when you deliver feedback, only deliver one type (constructive or positive) at a time. Otherwise, it can be confusing to the recipient. They don't know whether they are being admonished or praised.

Related

For simple instructions on effective feedback, check out my articles on Positive Feedback and Constructive Feedback.

Assertiveness Tactis

You can learn to communicate with greater assertiveness, effectiveness and compassion, with my FREE Assertiveness Tactics Report.


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6. Be open to learning

Deliver feedback alexander pope

When something does not go to plan, it is rare that one person is 100% responsible. The likelihood is that there will have been something that you could have done differently too. Never approach these situations assuming that you have all of the answers. To deliver feedback effectively, you must be willing to receive feedback too. When you are receptive like this, everybody begins to see feedback as an opportunity for mutual learning and improvement, rather than something to be feared.

I cannot stress this enough. When you deliver feedback, it is not about authority or control. You want to focus on improvement and positive change. When you do so, you are more willing to listen and learn. You may learn new ideas to improve things, you may learn new things about the recipient of your feedback or, you may learn new things about yourself.

Feedback is key to improvement but for it to be so, you must be willing to listen and learn.

How To Talk So Others Will Listen

Feedback is just one of the key communication skills which will help you to achieve more while improving your productivity and reducing your stress


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Conclusion

Throughout your life, there will be many occasions where you are required to deliver feedback. This will usually be because you want to achieve a better outcome. When these occasions arise, the quality of the outcome that you achieve will be determined by the quality of the feedback that you deliver. When you are required to deliver feedback, try to view the situation as an opportunity for mutual learning and growth. When you do this, you achieve better outcomes and reap better rewards. The ability to deliver feedback effectively is an essential skill both in life and work. Try implementing the 6 strategies, above, and you will take giant strides in developing this critical skill.

Image credit: Chance Agrella