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give good feedback

When giving feedback, don’t be this guy!

When starting your own big thing, you’ll encounter times when giving feedback is necessary.

When doing so, keep in mind what Jack R. Gibb calls supportive behaviors.  Using this supportive approach allows you to create a safe climate so defensive responses are reduced.

Professor Gibb has this to say about defensive behaviors:

“Defensive behavior is defined as that behavior which occurs when an individual perceives threat or anticipates threat in the group.

The person who behaves defensively, even though he also gives some attention to the common task, devotes an appreciable portion of his energy to defending himself. Besides talking about the topic, he thinks about how he appears to others, how he may be seen more favorably, how he may win, dominate, impress, or escape punishment, and/or how he may avoid or mitigate a perceived or an anticipated attack.

Such inner feelings and outward acts tend to create similarly defensive postures in others; and, if unchecked, the ensuing circular response becomes increasingly destructive.

Defensive behavior, in short, endangers defensive listening, and this in turn produces postural, facial, and verbal cues which raise the defense level of the original communicator.”


6 things to do to build a good environment for giving feedback


1)  Give a good description.

Focus on describing very specific behavior so the person can repeat the behavior if it’s positive or isolate it if it’s negative. Be non-judgmental.

2)  Have a problem, not person, orientation.

Focus on the task not on the person! Most importantly, focus on behaviors they can change versus labeling them “good” or “bad.”

3)  Be spontaneous; do it now.

Give feedback immediately when you see the behavior, and make it relevant. Assure you don’t have any hidden agendas.

4)  Have empathy.

Make sure you show your concern for others. Take the perspective of the person to whom you’re giving the feedback.

5)  Practice equality.

Own your comments, yet be willing to participate with the other person to define the problem. Come from a place of equality by de-emphasizing differences in power and/or ability.

6)  Use provisionalism.

Be tentative and flexible. Demonstrate your willingness to consider alternate points of view and courses of action.  Use phrases like: “We could…One way we might do that is…or I think this is what is happening.” Remember things are not always what they seem.

Feedback bottom line:  Give positive feedback when you can and always give it because it truly is a gift.

What methods have worked for you in providing meaningful feedback without the person becoming defensive?

Image credit:  Gratisography