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How to Give Constructive Feedback and Avoid Ugly Confrontations

How to Give Constructive Feedback and Avoid Ugly Confrontations

“You’ve been doing a fantastic job, but, there’s just one thing….”

Many of us dread these words and what follows next. It’s only natural to feel this way because giving and/or receiving criticism can be daunting. Feedback has the potential to either encourage people to do better or totally demoralize them, so it’s important that you remain calm and optimistic when giving or receiving it.

According to a research paper published in The Journal of Consumer Research titled “Tell Me What I did Wrong: Experts Seek and Respond to Negative Feedback,” many people often forget the purpose of feedback. It’s not meant to make people feel bad, but rather to help people DO better. Negative feedback is not always bad, and positive feedback is not always good.

If you want to encourage people to do better and become the best they can be, you need to learn how to give constructive evaluations. Encouraging others also helps you achieve more in your own personal and business life. Here are some handy tips you can use to give more constructive feedback and encourage others instead of demoralizing them.

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1.   Remind yourself why you are giving feedback

Before you approach someone to give an evaluation, remind yourself why you are doing it. You goal is to help others improve performance or a situation. If you are rushed, overly critical, or unsure of yourself, you won’t accomplish your purpose.

Step back and analyze your reasons for wanting to give feedback. Build up a positive outlook and positive approach that is focused on improvement: this is important because a positive approach often gets more from people.

You don’t always have to be positive, though; a little negativity and controlled anger can be useful when used sparingly, especially when people are not paying sufficient attention to what you are saying.

2.   Create a comfortable environment to talk

According to neuroscientist Kevin Ochsner from Columbia University, who was citing research done at the university, people who receive feedback apply it only about 30% of the time. If the person you are talking to doesn’t feel comfortable, the effectiveness of your communication drops and ultimately becomes unproductive.

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Find somewhere safe to talk where you won’t be overheard or interrupted. Start the talk with something positive and then move on to an open, objective assessment. Help the other person “see” where there is a need for improvement and offer practical solutions to bring about desired change.

3.   Observe time

Feedback is not about surprising people or getting people off guard; it’s about telling people what they need to hear when they are most likely expecting to hear it. The effectiveness of your communication increases when it is given closer to the time the event or issue being addressed happened.

Congratulate people for a job well done as soon as the job is done. In the same way, address issues of none performance sooner rather than later. Don’t wait a whole year for problems to pile up before you address them—it’s easier for everyone involved when feedback is given in a timely manner.

The exception to this rule is if the situation in question is highly emotional. Wait for everyone to calm down first before you approach them for a candid talk, thus avoiding potentially ugly confrontations with people.

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4.   Focus on one specific issue

People generally respond better to an evaluation or performance appraisal when it is focused directly on a specific issue and delivered with a positive slant. Avoid discussing more than two issues in a single appraisal session, because doing so risks the other person feeling attacked. Focus more on one (or at most, two) priority issues that you want improved on first.

Say something like: “You’re smart. I want you to give at least one opinion in every brainstorming meeting we’re in together.” instead of “You should talk more in our meetings.” The former statement is more focused, addresses a specific issue directly and offers a solution, while the latter communication is ambiguous and opens many avenues for misinterpretation.

5.   Be tough, but not mean

Feedback will fall flat if you are unreasonable, mean-spirited and/or offensive. State your expectations clearly, firmly and civilly with a view to achieve positive change. Give not-so-positive appraisal in a private conversation to avoid making people look foolish or feel embarrassed in front of others.

Just be considerate and stick to discussing behavior that people can actually change. People generally appreciate public recognition of positive contributions, but will often take it hard if you criticize them for under-performance in public.

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6.   Follow up

Follow up on the progress of what was talked about in performance evaluations. Acknowledge people’s efforts to improve, and reward them when possible to reinforce positive effort and encourage improved performance.

Remember that people tend to become what you encourage them to be, not what you nag them to be, so don’t nag them with the excuse that you are following up. Be reasonable, and you will increase the effectiveness of your communications.

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on December 10, 2019

5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

5 Smart Reasons to Start Journal Writing Today

Here’s the truth: your effectiveness at life is not what it could be. You’re missing out.

Each day passes by and you have nothing to prove that it even happened. Did you achieve something? Go on a date? Have an emotional breakthrough? Who knows?

But what you do know is that you don’t want to make the same mistakes that you’ve made in the past.

Our lives are full of hidden gems of knowledge and insight, and the most recent events in our lives contain the most useful gems of all. Do you know why? It’s simple, those hidden lessons are the most up to date, meaning they have the largest impact on what we’re doing right now.

But the question is, how do you get those lessons? There’s a simple way to do it, and it doesn’t involve time machines:

Journal writing.

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Improved mental clarity, the ability to see our lives in the big picture, as well as serving as a piece of evidence cataloguing every success we’ve ever had; we are provided all of the above and more by doing some journal writing.

Journal writing is a useful and flexible tool to help shed light on achieving your goals.

Here’s 5 smart reasons why you should do journal writing:

1. Journals Help You Have a Better Connection with Your Values, Emotions, and Goals

By journaling about what you believe in, why you believe it, how you feel, and what your goals are, you understand your relationships with these things better. This is because you must sort through the mental clutter and provide details on why you do what you do and feel what you feel.

Consider this:

Perhaps you’ve spent the last year or so working at a job you don’t like. It would be easy to just suck it up and keep working with your head down, going on as if it’s supposed to be normal to not like your job. Nobody else is complaining, so why should you, right?

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But a little journal writing will set things straight for you. You don’t like your job. You feel like it’s robbing you of happiness and satisfaction, and you don’t see yourself better there in the future.

The other workers? Maybe they don’t know, maybe they don’t care. But you do, you know and care enough to do something about it. And you’re capable of fixing this problem because your journal writing allows you to finally be honest with yourself about it.

2. Journals Improve Mental Clarity and Help Improve Your Focus

If there’s one thing journal writing is good for, it’s clearing the mental clutter.

How does it work? Simply, whenever you have a problem and write about it in a journal, you transfer the problem from your head to the paper. This empties the mind, allowing allocation of precious resources to problem-solving rather than problem-storing.

Let’s say you’ve been juggling several tasks at work. You’ve got data entry, testing, e-mails, problems with the boss, and so on—enough to overwhelm you—but as you start journal writing, things become clearer and easier to understand: Data entry can actually wait till Thursday; Bill kindly offered earlier to do my testing; For e-mails, I can check them now; the boss is just upset because Becky called in sick, etc.

You become better able to focus and reason your tasks out, and this is an indispensable and useful skill to have.

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3. Journals Improve Insight and Understanding

As a positive consequence of improving your mental clarity, you become more open to insights you may have missed before. As you write your notes out, you’re essentially having a dialogue with yourself. This draws out insights that you would have missed otherwise; it’s almost as if two people are working together to better understand each other. This kind of insight is only available to the person who has taken the time to connect with and understand themselves in the form of writing.

Once you’ve gotten a few entries written down, new insights can be gleaned from reading over them. What themes do you see in your life? Do you keep switching goals halfway through? Are you constantly dating the same type of people who aren’t good for you? Have you slowly but surely pushed people out of your life for fear of being hurt?

All of these questions can be answered by simply self-reflecting, but you can only discover the answers if you’ve captured them in writing. These questions are going to be tough to answer without a journal of your actions and experiences.

4. Journals Track Your Overall Development

Life happens, and it can happen fast. Sometimes we don’t take the time to stop and look around at what’s happening to us at each moment. We don’t get to see the step-by-step progress that we’re making in our own lives. So what happens? One day it’s the future, and you have no idea how you’ve gotten there.

Journal writing allows you to see how you’ve changed over time, so you can see where you did things right, and you can see where you took a misstep and fell.

The great thing about journals is that you’ll know what that misstep was, and you can make sure it doesn’t happen again—all because you made sure to log it, allowing yourself to learn from your mistakes.

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5. Journals Facilitate Personal Growth

The best thing about journal writing is that no matter what you end up writing about, it’s hard to not grow from it. You can’t just look at a past entry in which you acted shamefully and say “that was dumb, anyway!” No, we say “I will never make a dumb choice like that again!”

It’s impossible not to grow when it comes to journal writing. That’s what makes journal writing such a powerful tool, whether it’s about achieving goals, becoming a better person, or just general personal-development. No matter what you use it for, you’ll eventually see yourself growing as a person.

Kickstart Journaling

How can journaling best be of use to you? To vent your emotions? To help achieve your goals? To help clear your mind? What do you think makes journaling such a useful life skill?

Know the answer? Then it’s about time you reap the benefits of journal writing and start putting pen to paper.

Here’s what you can do to start journaling:

Featured photo credit: Jealous Weekends via unsplash.com

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