A participant at a Humanergy communication training said, “I really don’t think this person will like what I have to say. I need to say it right, so they won’t be upset.”
One of the hardest things about giving honest, tough feedback is letting go of control of the other person’s reaction. Yes, be compassionate and thoughtful about how and what you say. However, remember that you do not control how the other person hears it. You can only take responsibility for your own choices.
That being said, these 6 guidelines for giving feedback from Fast Company help you make the right choices when communicating difficult feedback:
1. Make it timely. Give feedback as close to “the event” as possible.
2. Prepare before the meeting. Think of your intentions and feelings, and consider practicing with a trusted person if needed. Develop a loose script if that helps you to stay on topic.
3. Ask the recipient for his own feedback. Ask how he thinks the situation went, before you share your perspective. There may be more self-awareness than you think.
4. Stick to the facts. Avoid assumptions and judgment. Share the impact of the person’s behavior.
5. Actively listen and check your emotions. After you give the feedback, allow the receiver to share her perspective. Summarize in your own words what you’re hearing. At this point, if you having an emotional reaction, you may want to ask for some time to “digest” and talk as soon as you’re in control.
6. End on a positive note. Although it’s often good to start with a positive impression at the start of the conversation, it’s also important to share a positive point at the end – trust that the person can change, for example.
Humanergy’s 7. Check back in a week. In the moment, the person’s response may be emotional. Allow some time for processing the feedback and make sure you follow up.
Remember, even when you do these steps very, very well, the person receiving the feedback might not react as you’d hope. State your truth simply, and let go of the need for a particular reaction. Remember Joseph Priestly’s advice, “The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate.”