Feedback, when used effectively, can drive positive changes. The intent for giving feedback should always be to provide input for improvement. It should never be used to tear people down, or to attack them personally. This is bullying, not giving feedback.
The best way to give critical feedback, is to be in a situation where you are prepared with your talking points. We never know how the other person is going to react to our message. Many negative reactions to feedback are caused by unclear or poor communication, so to avoid this, take time to plan your talking points, and include examples. If we plan our message, communicate it clearly, and still receive a negative reaction, we can stick to our script to have a more effective outcome.
Here is a list of possible reactions we can receive from the other person. If the reaction you are getting from the other person is in the left column, don’t expect your feedback to achieve any positive outcomes.
Change or improvement can only occur when a person reaches some form of acceptance. Many times, this happens in follow-up conversations. Initially, someone may have a negative response, because they feel threatened or aren’t ready to face reality. After they have time to process the information emotionally, they can move from resistance to acceptance. When a person is defensive, they are focused on protecting themselves, versus being open to improving. Unless a person is open, willing to accept reality by acknowledging there is truth in what they are hearing, they are not going to change. We must look for signs of acceptance before we can ever expect any change in behavior.
The level of trust and respect an individual has for the person giving feedback will also greatly influence their reaction. Also, the health or current status of the relationship is a factor. We will typically disregard any feedback from people we don’t trust or don’t respect. When an individual knows that we care for them as a person, our relationship with them is healthy, and have their best interest in mind, they are more likely to listen to our feedback.