During last month’s session on "The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback" with Steve Hanamura, I was surprised with how many of my peers said they struggle with effectively providing constructive feedback when it involves negative news. I honestly did not realize it was that common and have always figured it was something I tend to struggle with primarily due to my extreme aversion to conflict. Ironically, I appreciate and prefer getting honest feedback from others, even if it’s hard to hear, because I know where I stand and what I’m doing well and what I can improve on. It’s not as helpful if someone tells me I’m doing a great job all of the time, even when I’m not, because I don’t know how they honestly feel. Despite this, I still struggle with providing truthful feedback to other people if it’s not positive. I worry about offending others and want to avoid the uncomfortable-ness of potential conflict or retaliation.
On the other end of the spectrum, although I prefer receiving honest feedback, I sometimes take too much of it to heart, thinking I need to change everything that was just mentioned to me, so I don’t disappoint the person who just provided feedback to me. I also sometimes jump to conclusions without really making sure I understand what the person is saying.
In order to help address both giving and receiving feedback, Steve provided us with five skills for communicating with others. The fifth skill on the list was giving and receiving feedback. However, in order to effectively do that we need to use the other four skills which include paraphrasing, behavior description, feeling description/expression, and perception check. When broken down in this way, providing and receiving feedback seems less daunting and more manageable. In the weeks since our training, I’ve practiced using these skills in various situations and found them to be useful and effective. To be completely honest I’ve had the most practice using this at home with my children, where it seems more comfortable and “safe” to try it, but as it becomes more natural, I know it will be easier to apply more consistently at work as well. I’ve practiced paraphrasing (after listening to both content and feeling) to try and make sure I understand what the other person is saying. Behavior description where I purely describe the behavior I saw has been extremely useful with my children, especially when following it with the description of the feelings it caused in me. I can see how this will be effective at work too. Perception check has also been helpful when trying to check if my perception of the situation is accurate since the other person can answer that with a yes or no.
As far as addressing my fear of conflict when providing feedback, Steve provided a quote from Robert Frost that really resonated with me: “The only way out of conflict is through it”. He also suggested asking yourself what the worst thing is that could happen from providing someone with that feedback. Reminding myself of both of those things will continue to be a tremendous help in dealing with potential conflict that might result from giving truthful feedback.