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When You Really Believe That Feedback Helps People, You’ll Relax

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

When you’re really comfortable giving feedback, you smile and feel eager to help other people achieve things they care about. Managers who truly believe in the value of giving frequent feedback–because they’ve proven to themselves how well it works–can initiate productive feedback conversations without fear arising in their brains.

Which of these mindsets is more likely to elicit a smile?

Mindset #1 Great, I can go in this morning and talk to BJ about how she can improve the way she’s managing our new project. I can think of a couple of things that will be helpful & she will appreciate this help.

Mindset #2 BJ really needs to be a better project manager. I’ve held off mentioning the online tools he’s not utilizing well, but now that he’s missed on deadlines, I really can’t wait any longer. This won’t be fun….

Get into a better mindset about feedback!

If you’re experiencing something similar to Mindset #2 and you’ve waited too long, you’re almost certain to experience stress and dread giving feedback. To avoid this, make sure you’re up-to-date with everyone by regularly giving and receiving feedback with them.

Really think hard about what would be the most helpful and beneficial to BJ. Is it holding back your personal opinion that he is project manager or is it sharing with him your specific observations and suggestions so that he can correct them as quickly as possible? Although BJ may at first be a little surprised by your feedback–if it’s been held back and if it includes several items that need to be attended to, he really really wants to know and be coached on the area you are concerned about. Trust me. This is what just about every employee I talk to says when I ask them how they feel most developed and supported by their boss—particularly younger workers and people who are motivated to get ahead on the job.

You and the feedback recipient must both be in the game—and on the same side.

You can probably stir up a smile, if you imagine playing a game with another person on your team. Say there are two people—you and BJ on one side, and two other people on the other side. If you can think of an improvement for how you and BJ can win, you would be very excited and happy to share that with him. You’re likely to smile and stay engaged while discussing a winning strategy. That is the mindset we want to go for:  You’re on the same team and wanting to win—for the whole group, for BJ’s advancement, and for meeting your own goals through the people you lead.

Mirror neurons give you away when you’re stressed

If you’re worried about BJ’s reaction and are reluctant to give the feedback BJ needs, you’re unlikely to be able to smile. BJ will accurately perceive that you are stressed. In brain science, the phenomenon of “mirror neurons” suggests that other people’s brain cells are mirroring the path of your nervous brain cells, as they speed their way into the emotional, amygdala portion of your brain.

Mirror neurons give you away when you’re happy

If you are calm and even happy about the idea of helping people win at work through feedback, their brains will pick up on your enthusiasm, positive excitement, and affiliative feelings—which prompt your (and their) brain cells to stay in the “upper” parts of the brain, where resourceful solutions and greater feelings of connection and appreciation can be found.

The more you jump in early and give feedback, the more it will succeed, and the more you’ll relax

People ask they can relax about giving feedback when they don’t feel that way. Here it is: Cajole yourself to jump in early to give helpful feedback. The recipient is 80-90% likely to appreciate it, based on my research! When they value it and you calm down, knowing you did the right thing, you build the courage to do it more often–not just with them but with everybody.

The more it works well, the more your fears subside. You’re happy about it, less stressed, and it becomes the way you do your work, everyday!

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