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3 Ways to Make Your Feedback Easier to Hear

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

There’s feedback that works better than other feedback you can give. If you are a boss, project leader, or team member who feels a lot of ownership about something you’re doing with others, you want to make sure that your feedback improves the work while keeping the others on your side. Here are three approaches that can help:

#1 Begin your feedback soon after people begin the work.

There are many advantages to this–the most important of which is that people will be more open to adjusting what they are doing in the beginning rather than after they’ve struggled a while and get fixed on a course of action. When you give this early feedback, use a lot of positive feedback about their approach, their focus, their creative ideas, and whatever authentic compliments you can offer.

You may also need to re-clarify the goals and find out where they have questions.  Also, make sure to ask for feedback back. Feedback at this stage prevents trauma and drama later on, when people might be shocked that you don’t like what they’ve poured their hearts and souls into. I see this as an easy approach because it has a lot of positives in it, and you’re usually not super-stressed or angry at this stage.

#2 Using soothing phrases when giving corrective feedback (without being a fake).

Here’s how to correct someone who thinks they already know how to do something or is embarrassed that they don’t. Copy the soothing approaches of Apple Geniuses–on the phone or at the Apple Store Genius Bar–when they correct what the customer thought they already knew or when they have to give step-by-step instructions. They use language that makes customers feel less wrong!

For instructing someone on a task they’re embarrassed not to know, use “Go ahead,” as in Go ahead and hold down the ‘About this Mac’ button. As a boss, go ahead and use “Go ahead” until you’ve finished the conversation. “Go ahead and call the client and find out her preference.” “Go ahead and get those two parties together to create a solution.” You are making them feel that they already knew what to do.

For disavowing someone of their strongly held idea or theory, acknowledge their idea as plausible and then use the phrase, “But it turns out that……”  For example: It seems logical that you’d find the windshield wiper button here, but it turns out that it’s over here.

By the way, I am not revealing any of Apple’s secret training techniques, I’ve just had a lot of experience in asking naive questions at my local Genius Bar and noticing that their consistent approach soothes me.

#3 Frame everything in terms of the future.

This may be the most important thing to remember. It applies to every single feedback discussion. After all, the purpose of feedback is to offer information that will improve future performance. So set up the conversation as how you guys will succeed in the future before you explain what went wrong. Some examples for corrective feedback:

“Next time you talk to the customer’s boss, make sure to……..”

“When we start the new project next month, it will work better to…….”

“For those accounts I know you want to win, you can start…….”

For positive feedback:

“That meeting you led before the kickoff with the new client sped us up so much, let’s adopt that across the board.”

In addition to recognizing the positive contribution, you really want this learning to seep into the work process of that individual and of others it applies to. This is a very positive approach because it allows people to get it right in the future and feel successful. By focusing on how the other person will hear the feedback, you can get the satisfaction of having them apply your feedback right away.

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