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Good Communication Skills - Distinguish Feedback From Insults

Distinguish "feedback" from "insults"

Occasionally you need to give feedback to other people.

Giving feedback is a vital management skill.

Essentially, there are two kinds of feedback message:

  1. Positive praise; which is easy to give because most people like receiving praise.
  2. Negative feedback (constructive criticism) is not easy to give because most people can't handle personal criticism.

But, as a manager, you sometimes have to criticise other peoples work.
Giving negative feedback requires much thought and careful planning.

Question: What are the key things to bear in mind, when giving people feedback messages?

Answer: Here are some pointers:

All feedback is made by reference to the "goal"
All feedback is measured as "The amount of deviation from the desired goal"

Without knowledge of the goal, giving feedback is impossible

"Feedback" presupposes deviation from a known ideal, or goal.

Give all feedback by making reference to the ideal or goal.

Feedback comes in three forms:

Imagine your team have been working to achieve a certain financial goal

Imagine that, on Monday morning, you decide to check the accounts to see what kind of progress you have been making in respect of that financial goal.

There are three possible alternatives:

Since you last checked, the work has resulted in your team:

  1. Making progress towards the stated goal- you have made money
  2. NOT making progress towards the stated goal- you have not made money
  3. Going backwards- you have lost money

If you have made progress
If you have made progress then you should give people a positive feedback message
But If you have NOT made progress

If you have either:

  1. Not made progress
  2. Gone backwards

Then you should give people a negative feedback message.
To be meaningful all feedback messages should be clear, specific and objective.
Try to express things factually by reducing them down to numbers

Don't say: "You've failed to hit target": Say "You failed to hit target by 23%"
Don't say "You are unprofessional" say "You are twenty minutes late"

Distinguish "feedback" from "insults"

Successful action demands that people pay attention to critical feedback.
BUT, for some people, listening to critical feedback is a painful experience.
Therefore, for some people, feedback is a painful experience!

Distinguish between feedback which you should welcome, and insults.
So now, read the following examples and distinguish insults from feedback:

Write "insult" if you think the statement is merely a put down.
Write "feedback" if you think it is valuable information.

  1. While you are taking a photograph, someone tells you: "You're standing too far away from the subject."
  2. While taking a photograph someone says, "You always take crumby photos".
  3. Your shoes are dirty.
  4. You're an idiot.
  5. You are lazy.
  6. You pronounced that last word wrong. The stress should be on the last syllable.
  7. You have put on weight. (Assume it is true that you have).

So, what distinguishes all the insult messages from the feedback messages?
Answer: All insults are:

Subjective, vague, emotionalised, and do not suggest a specific corrective action.
Whereas: All feedback messages are:
Objective, specific, non-emotional and Do suggest a specific corrective action.
Avoid making "subtle hints" in the hope they "get the message"

Some people try to give their feedback messages by means of dropping hints, in the hope that the other person will get the message and change their behaviour.
Or they try making sarcastic humorous comments, in the same, vein hope.
Don't do that!

Don't make hints - make statements. Be clear and specific.

Don't rely on vague hints and poor humour to do your job for you.

Why?

  1. Because they may not pick up on your feeble hints
  2. They may misinterpret your humour

Communication skills summary

Occasionally you need to give feedback to other people.

Question: What are the key things to bear in mind, when giving people feedback messages?

  1. Give all feedback by making reference to the goal.
  2. If you have made progress then you should give people positive feedback
  3. If you have not made progress or, gone backwards, then: you should give people a negative feedback message.
  4. Try to express things factually by reducing facts down to numbers
  5. Figure out: What distinguishes an insult from a feedback message?
  6. All insults are: SUBJECTIVE and EMOTIONALISED and DO NOT SUGGEST A SPECIFIC CORRECTIVE ACTION.
  7. Whereas: All feedback messages are: Objective, and Do suggest a specific corrective action.
  8. Make CLEAR statements.
  9. Don't rely on vague hints and poor humour to do your job for you.
  10. Be specific.

For more information about our communications skills courses visit the Corporate Coach Group website

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