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Get in the Mood for Feedback

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

If you have a vague sense of dread because you need to talk to someone about something that needs big-time improvement, take a few deep breaths and shift your thoughts to something more fun and pleasing.

If this advice sounds kind of Pollyanna and unrealistic, know that it is based on hard research about the brain. Your discomfort, fear, and avoidance pretty much guarantee that it will go badly. Fight-or-flight hormones will be released in your brain, your unease will grow, and it will culminate in a fight-or-flight reaction by the “mirror neurons” of your receiver’s brain.

Not good.

Here’s what to do instead:

1. Recognize that your brain has taken off in an unproductive direction. Tell yourself “That’s OK, but I prefer to get into a resourceful place. I know there are less stressful and more productive ways of interacting with my co-worker, while still addressing this improvement need. You are consciously planning to get into a better mood!

2. Reframe the notion of feedback as an opportunity to help yourself, the team, and the employee achieve great things together. Actually take a minute or two to envision the person you need to talk to with new, better skills and performing excellently. Now see the whole team benefitting from these improvements, and your whole group delivering a stellar work product! See yourself smiling as you see just how excellently they’ve achieved the team’s goals. See yourself telling the employee how much you appreciate the great work. Continue envisioning success until it takes hold and you feel yourself relax a bit.

3. Revise your planned way of giving feedback so that you C—Connect with the other person, O—Observe specific behavior you’d like improved, I—Explain the Impact of that behavior on your goals and the Impact you’d rather see, and finally N—Suggest Next steps that will get the other person (and your whole team) to the targeted impact.

4. Reflect on how well the feedback goes, after you finish the conversation. Remember and record what you did specifically to make it go so well. Brain research shows that these refection phases rewires the pathways of the brain so that you will avoid some of the fight-or-flight next time you give feedback and stay in a better mood about it!

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