A manager who coaches others needs to provide feedback that keeps them focused and on track. Feedback is also a critical element for working out relationships with coworkers, friends and family members. Unfortunately, “feedback” can become a euphemism for not very constructive criticism.

Feedback can and should be a way of helping another person become more effective. You can help others increase their effectiveness by helping them to understand both what you observed about their actions, and how those actions affected you.

Feedback, at its best, involves sharing both facts and feelings in a way that supports someone who is willing to accept your information.

Use these tips to improve the quality of the feedback you offer others:

1. Give feedback when it is solicited, rather than imposing it on an unwilling listener. If you must offer unsolicited feedback, first say that you would like to give some feedback and ask if this is a good time to do so. If now does not work, schedule it for a later time.

2. Provide well-timed feedback — usually at the earliest possible moment after the given behavior. Feedback given long after there is any opportunity to correct a problem will usually sound like criticism. However, you may still have to wait until the recipient is ready to hear what you have to say.

3. Give descriptive rather than evaluative feedback. Report on the facts or behaviors you observed, and the impact of those behaviors. Avoid pejorative words like dumb, crazy or stupid.

4. Be specific rather than general. “I observed this twice,” is more specific than “You always…”

5. Check to be sure the receiver understood your communication. A good way to do this is to ask them to tell you what they heard you say.

6. Offer feedback that is useful to the recipient. Think about their level of understanding, and ability to use the information. It is useless to give a novice complex, sophisticated details that she doesn’t understand. On the other hand, it may be considered insulting to call someone’s attention to a problem of which she is already aware.

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If you want the recipient of your feedback to change their behavior as a result of you conversation, do not assume that giving the feedback is enough. Ask specifically for the change you want. For example, “Next time, please call me as soon as you know that the schedule needs to be adjusted. O.K.?”

Others will be more willing to give you the feedback you need to increase your own effectiveness if you demonstrate your willingness to receive it.

1. Ask others for their thoughts and feelings.

2. Actively listen to what is said. Paraphrase what you hear and ask if you are correct. Ask questions only for clarification.

3. Accept what you hear and avoid trying to explain or defend your actions.

4. Let others know how you use their feedback.

Remember, effective feedback gives you the information you need to keep learning and growing.

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Communicate skillfully about sensitive subjects in business situations. Have the challenging conversations that lead to cooperation and success. www.DareToSayIt.com/blog
Laurie Weiss, Ph.D. is a Master Certified Coach and communication expert. Dr. Weiss has spent 35 years helping clients resolve conflict in business and personal relationships. Email feedback@laurieweiss.com

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