If you want to make a difference, give feedback
Feedback is constant. Every action we take, each word we speak, is open to the interpretation of others. This is part of living in an interdependent world. And we can tend to stumble when it comes to verbalizing that feedback for others. A lot goes unsaid - sometimes because it is simply not that important. And other times because our worries drown out the desire to verbalize things.
We worry that we won’t say things that are important in a way that others will understand. We fear hurting another person or damaging a relationship beyond the point of repair. We don't want people to think we are overly-sensitive. We question the likelihood that we can really influence anything. What’s the point?
When something is important and we don’t articulate it, the emotions we feel don’t go away with our silence. They persist. They grow inside of us and impact our own behavior.
In last month’s webinar, we focussed on how to extract the most value from the feedback you receive. Attendees left feeling empowered to “take charge” of their feedback process.
There is an equal opportunity to take charge of how we give feedback. This article is a useful guide to kickstart your process. It provides guidance on how to filter the feedback worthy of a conversation. Your resources - your time and your energy - have limits. Focus on the things that have the greatest value for yourself, your team, and your organization.
Remember that your feedback is one perspective about another person’s behavior. It is not the ultimate truth. It is your truth - the way their behavior impacts you - but it is not the only truth. That same behavior may impact another individual in a very different capacity.
Your goal is twofold:
1. Offer the impact that their actions have on YOU
2. Hold an understanding that that impact may not be the same for every person with whom they interact.
The formula looks like this:
When you do [Action], the impact it has on me is [Impact]
The key here is to stick to an action or behavior that is clearly observable and easy to point towards directly. Any 3rd party could see the same behavior:
An example that women face:
“When you disrespect me, I lose my motivation to contribute to the team.”
This DOES NOT include a specific behavior.
“When you interrupt me in a meeting, I feel disrespected and lose my motivation to contribute to the team.” This DOES point to a specific behavior -- the interruption.
It takes practice and time to uncover the specific actions impacting you. And it is critically important to take that time.
In the first example, when "disrespect" is not tied to a specific behavior it’s easy to dismiss. If the other person's intention is anything other than to disrespect you (I hope it is), they will dismiss your feedback. They will not see their part in the issue. They will see you as misinterpreting their intent.
A good feedback conversation provides new information that the recipient did not have (or could not previously hear). That information can help better align the intent of their actions and impact it has on others.
In some cases, the recipient may get defensive. It is natural to have difficulty investing in others’ perspectives of us. To limit defenses and increase the chance of corrective action, tie feedback to their own agenda. What are the person’s goals? How have they expressed their intentions?
“I have heard you say that collaboration is important to you. When you interrupt me, it kills my desire to contribute to collaborative efforts.” Then the person can interpret your feedback as behavior that is getting in the way of their own goals. No one wants to get in their own way.
Similarly, when someone takes an action or says something that has a positive impact on you, tell them. Next time the person does not interrupt you, acknowledge it. When someone does something that feels inclusive, let them know. It is easy to expect behavior that we see as common sense. That expectation leads us to under-appreciated the things that matter to us. The things that are obvious to us may not be obvious to others. When in doubt, appreciate.
Everyone is doing the best they can. We all impact others in ways that we do not intend. Everyone is acting reasonably from their own point of view.