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How to Ask for Honest Feedback Without Feeling Hurt

How to Ask for Honest Feedback Without Feeling Hurt

Ever since childhood, our parents and school teachers were constantly correcting and directing us by teaching the difference between right and wrong, and how to behave appropriately. We have been shaped by feedback, as we were always submerged in a “feedback pool.”

Somehow we have tricked ourselves into believing that no news usually implies good news. “If I don’t receive any feedback, then that must mean that I’m doing a great job and nothing needs to be improved. Right?” Unfortunately, not always. Many people are reluctant to give feedback because they feel that they may come across as bossy, or start a conflict.

We never learned how to actively consult for feedback, so we are typically very passive when it comes to receiving it.

This is because we receive less feedback as we age. Our parents and teachers start to back off a bit. This could be because they become more conscious on the impression that they leave on us, or they believe that it’s time we shape ourselves as people. True as that may be, many people don’t have the ability to fully self-reflect and find what needs improvement. We need some sort of guidance from an outside perspective to point out the variables that we can’t notice ourselves.

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People are reluctant to give feedback, and even more reluctant to receive it.

Not receiving feedback from others does not always mean that we are doing a good job. In fact, it can cause a rift in our performance because we have no direction in terms of the progress we have already made, and how to approach oncoming tasks.

The absence of feedback creates a bias

Self-reflection is a vital practice for improvement, but if you think you can quickly improve by relying solely on your own self-review, you are sorely mistaken.  We develop a certain perspective when we perform, and we follow the path and practices that we think will bring us the most success.

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If we only look at things from our own perspective, then all of our decisions are influenced by bias because we only consider one side of the coin. This practice of only accepting information that supports your perspective is called confirmation bias. The lack of feedback feeds into the idea that your way is the right way, because no one has ever challenged you or suggested any sort of improvement.  That’s why relying only on self-reflection is not impossible, but takes a lot more effort and time.

So it’s very important to get feedback from an outsider perspective. You will be forced to consider variables that had never occurred to you, and in the end improve your performance.

Asking for feedback can be very intimidating. You’re essentially asking people to tell you what you’ve been doing wrong and point out your flaws. There are techniques to safely ask for feedback and appropriately digest the information, equipping you to use to it your advantage.

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The way that you approach for feedback will influence the way that you receive it

Feedback will only be helpful if you choose to accept it positively, and use it as momentum to improve.  Resist the natural reaction to take things personally, because this information is a chance to grow and learn. If you allow yourself to be offended, you will never accept the information on a factual level. In other words, buck up and take it.

It’s okay to feel bad because it’s not easy to hear that you’re anything less than perfect. Especially when it feels like an attack on your livelihood. But you can’t doubt yourself because of this, or try to explain away the criticism.  Just assume that whoever is giving you this feedback wants to see you improve.  And once you know what needs to change, all you need to do is get out there and do it.

The key is to pick the RIGHT person and frame your question accordingly

You want to choose someone that you trust and respect, and who really has a firm grasp on the topic at hand.  They should have experience facing the obstacles that are coming your way, and will provide you with honest feedback and advice on how to overcome them.

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How you approach receiving feedback is crucial as well. It is not enough to ask someone that you admire. They may not be properly trained on how to give feedback appropriately as teachers are. So you need to be prepared with questions to ask them so that you receive answers within your scope of expectation.

For example: If you want to improve your speech presentation, you need to ask questions directly related to that. Instead of asking what they think about a certain aspect as a whole, ask what specifically could be improved. The broad question of, “what do you think of my ____?” leaves room for personal judgment, and even more room to get offended. By carefully asking questions, you will be directing their focus towards a solution.

Create a positive Feedback Loop

Taking in feedback is never easy if you only see it as criticism instead of a chance to improve.  Thinking of it as a fast track to achieve what you want will make you feel less offended and motivates you to ask for more feedback.  Last of all, you must act on the feedback given and apply it!  At Lifehack, we encourage everyone to get feedback fast, and get it early during the learning process.  Like running up a staircase, each time you receive and apply feedback you’re creating a feedback loop that helps you make upward progress.  Going up stairs step by step is much easier than having to suddenly climb up a wall.  So have confidence and be proactive.  With this perspective, you’ll find that getting the right feedback is like gold – it can save you hours of wasted effort and accelerate your progress by leaps and bounds.

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Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier 10 Best New Products That People Don’t Know About Book Summary: The Power of Habit in 2 Minutes 1 Minute Book Summary: How To Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less 2 Minutes Book Summary: Thinking Fast and Slow

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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