Feedback done right

Feedback is the breakfast of champions. – Ken Blanchard

Feedback is one of the most indispensible tools for success. We ought to welcome it as hungrily as our morning meal. But some people attach who they are to what they do so tightly that when they hear suggestions about how they can improve, it feels like a personal attack. That’s a matter of weak self-esteem, something we all struggle with to some degree.

If you are offering feedback to someone else, be absolutely sure your input is respectful and not accusatory and hurtful. The best way to do that is by checking your language to make sure you were making requests about actions, not criticizing the character of the person.

Sometimes your language and focus were entirely appropriate, but the person receiving your feedback was still offended. If that’s the case, shift your attention to the relationship. Stay in 100 percent responsibility for that relationship even if you now know this person is coming from a place of hurt. Do everything you can to build the relationship. You might say, “I’m feeling like I said something that was hurtful. I’m unhappy about that and want to repair that. I didn’t intend to hurt you—in fact, I was hoping to help improve a situation for you. Can you coach me on how I can do a better job making suggestions in the future without putting our relationship in harm’s way?”

As the person begins to explain, if they are reflective at all, they will usually come to the realization that you were not handling it in an inappropriate way.

On the other hand, if your approach COULD be improved, you may get some valuable coaching in that direction. Either way, you stay even and calm and choose to rise above being triggered, and you will know that you did your best.

Remember, we are accountable to people but not for them. If this person is suffering some painful triggers from their youth and this has nothing to do with you, decide to skip merrily down the street. You’re doing the right thing, and they’re just doing their dance. Humans are not perfect, but that doesn’t let us off the hook to not be the best we can be. Stay elegant no matter what.

As my mother used to say, “You don’t have to like everybody…but you do have to love them.”

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