Constructive feedback can happen without conflict
Feedback. It's a word that gets used a lot particularly when we talk about communication, conflict, change, even decision making. But what is it and what's all the fuss about?
Surely, if you need to tell someone something you just tell them! How they take it is up to them.
It seems that we are becoming more concerned about the impact of what we are telling someone rather than just unloading when what they do gets to a point where we have had enough.
And it's a good thing too. Essentially feedback is a way of closing the communication loop or of keeping it open as we go through the experience of learning about how our intentions impact others.
Creating a space where people feel safe enough to talk about things that are impacting them without fear of retribution and where understanding the way our words, body language and emotional load play a part in limiting our ability to build effective relationships, is critical to our becoming more responsive and less reactive.
It is also part of our journey into true emotional intelligence and self-awareness.
When was the last time someone gave you feedback and your first response was to push back, get defensive and either argue or walk away? Why did that happen? As an observation, it's not even so much the message itself, more often it's in the way the feedback has been delivered.
We get nervous when we think about telling someone something that they need to know about what they are doing. We have a conversation in our heads about what could happen when we tell them. That usually cascades into an internal verbal battle about what will and won't happen, what they will do in response and what we need to do to prepare to combat that. So when we get to the point where we talk to the person we come in all guns loaded.
If we step back and consider our responsibilities as a colleague, friend, family member or whatever the relationship is, if we aren't telling people what they need to know in order to change (in a way they can hear) then we are as responsible for that behaviour as the person doing it.
How do we do this and not allow our emotions to get in the way? From learning over time and many poor experiences here's a way to check in with yourself before the conversation.
Ask yourself: What is my intention here? Am I focused on being here in the moment - not distracted by other things? Am I authentic - willing to speak my truth? Am I being responsible to myself, to my role and to you? Am I clear in what I want to communicate? Am I willing to listen and to learn?
If we come with curiosity rather than judgment, we can limit the conflict. People appreciate being given feedback and we all need it from time to time.
Nick Bennett is a facilitator and coach at mindsaligned.com.au