When emotions run high and there is anger or hurt that gets triggered, I often tend to lash out, and that results in “verbal violence”. In other cases when I feel that giving feedback is pointless (as it won’t result in any change) then “silence” is the weapon of choice. Both verbal violence and silence are equally damaging to individuals and organisations. I was reminded of the need to break the Fight or flight pattern by Bhaskar Bhattacharya in a workshop on effective feedback.
The focus of feedback. As we head into appraisal season it is a perfect time to explore the art of giving and receiving feedback. Sharing information about observed past behaviour in the present to improve future outcomes is the essence of feedback. I had never really thought about the different aspects of giving feedback. A handy acronym to help identify the focus of feedback is CPR. Content – the action that triggers the need for feedback. Pattern – is it a single incident or is it a recurring one? Relationship – if a pattern is detected then the relationship is put to test as trust is often eroded. Decoding and deciding if the C the P or the R needs to be addressed or in what proportion and combination is part of the art of giving good feedback.
A short story is a good way to illustrate the importance of focusing on the facts. A friend of mine told me he found out that his wife has been having lunch with her ex-boyfriend for the last 6 months. (What stories came up for you? What imagery?) The mind thinks in stories. We add our assumptions and texture. Did you picture a particular friend? Where were they having lunch? Why were they having lunch? Did you fill in the blanks with assumptions and add some missing textures? It’s quite normal if you did. The mind thinks visually and we like stories. The problem is we start believing the parts we made up to be true.
When giving feedback one needs to focus on the facts. What is it that happened that we can specifically know and ascertain objectively? We need to stay clear of assumptions or interpretations and give meaning that may not be necessarily the correct picture.
If you don’t talk it out, you will act it out. The reptilian brain will take over and my need to “be right” and win will find its way through. If I can catch myself from walking down the “I need to be right” path and focus on the intent of giving feedback to help and be supportive, then I can operate from a place of goodness.
Feedback is meant to move people and organisations forward, so the communication needs to result in action. Time to get set for those appraisal conversations and get going. Keep an eye on the action that I want to catalyse. Stay away from sulky silence. Veer clear of verbal violence. Instead, focus on well-articulated and well-meaning feedback. Remember the feedback session is just the beginning of the upward spiral. Always end the feedback conversation with “Who does what by when?” and “How do we follow up?” Giving and receiving feedback with the right intent can transform an appraisal discussion.
What do I want for the person? For my relationship with the person? And for the team or organisation? This shifts perspective and allows the feedback to be constructive and possibly better received. Ask yourself the question “what do I really want from this conversation?” and the answer will inform and guide your feedback giving.
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