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Give Honest, Helpful Feedback To People Who Irritate You: Find A Way to Like Them First

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

What does liking people have to do with giving them fair, objective feedback? As it turns out, a lot. People you find annoying are people you probably avoid. You rarely or never compliment them. And you don’t readily share your suggestions for how they could do something better.

So if you really want the work to go better or to be helpful to all—not just some of your team members—stop avoiding frequent feedback conversations. My research on workplace feedback shows that people normally avoid honest conversations with people who annoy them and that avoidance is far more common than acting angry or correcting them. That’s why so many co-workers are walking around clueless about what they need to do differently at work.

But being “fake nice” won’t work A solution that will work must have you feeling connected to the other person on some level. Here are a couple of thought exercises that will get you into a helpful feedback mindset.

#1 Envision the work you do with this person flowing better and having great results How would it feel better for you? What would they be doing differently if they understood what you needed? How could they work more effectively on the goals you share? When you walk in and see them next, what would you like to see? Notice how differently you would feel with their new behaviors.

Write down a few notes to describe these changes. You will be able to use them when outlining what you will talk about in your feedback discussion.

#2 Think hard about some of their qualities that you can admire, even if it’s a stretch There must be something the person does well, even if it’s outside work. What personal qualities can you envision when you are about to have a feedback discussion with them? Maybe it’s volunteer work they do; maybe they are kind to someone who’s usually isolated at work, or they enjoy a hobby you do as well.

Write down these positive characteristics to remind you to envision them in this positive light.

#3 Read and reflect on your notes before you have a helpful feedback conversation with them Conjure up an image of this person as their best self. Soften your past reactions, see them as somewhat likeable and crack a smile on your face. You are about to help them tremendously, by providing great improvement suggestions and by showing them a little extra kindness.

“A concise and effective tool… It provides context, inspiration, and great actionable content.”

— Mark Holzbach, Creative and Tech Community Connector, Co-Founder, Zebra Imaging

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