When did you last shy away from giving negative feedback or telling someone something that they might not want to hear?
It can be very hard giving someone your views on their presentation, demeanor, dress-sense, communication style or general appearance and I have found that typically feedback is taken one of two ways:
A – I don’t agree with you / that’s bull***t / you’re wrong / I don’t believe you.
B – I didn’t know that / I guess you could be right / thanks for letting me know.
Of course you will always hope to hear B, BUT unless the person you are speaking with is self-aware or reflective enough, you will only ever hear A.
There have been countless occasions that I’ve had to give difficult feedback. Each time, I try to ensure they know it is designed to help and not embarrass. You should always ensure that the message is delivered respectfully.
Observe: If the individual thinks they are being personally attacked, they will become defensive and the opportunity for a meaningful discussion will be lost.
Be specific: To be effective, you’ll need to be very specific. Your detail should be delivered with examples and scenarios that describe exactly what you are referring to.
Be timely: Feedback should be given as soon as possible after or even during the event, picking up on something that you are seeing as it happens will help the receiver process what is being delivered.
Don’t be a jerk: The intent of feedback is to promote improvement and change, so be respectful, professional and show some empathy!
Ask what they think: After telling them, stop talking and give the other person a chance to respond to your statements and ask clarifying questions.
Feedback is crucial to the improvement and development; it can be a powerful enabler. So next time you find yourself in a situation where you should say something, challenge yourself to do exactly that.
Be honest, be bold but be respectful.