Difficult Conversations and Strategies for Giving Feedback
I wanna talk about giving feedback, giving critical feedback, giving awkward feedback and doing it in a way that doesn't set you up to appear combative, difficult or superior in your attitudes and behaviors. It's really important that we're able to give each other critical information that we're able to offer critical feedback well. Some people are hungry for it like some of the highest profile and highest potential people that I work with, are the hungriest for feedback. They just wanna get better all the time. They don't want you to tell them what they're doing well, they just want you to tell them what they're doing badly so they can improve. Not everybody is like this. Some people don't respond so well to critical feedback, some people aren't as prepared to hear it in fact, for some people it is incapacitating. Let's look at a particularly awkward type of feedback that you might have to give someone. Feedback about a personal hygiene issue at the office. You and several of your col...
leagues have noticed that a person with whom you are reasonably friendly has a problem, this problem is bad breath. It's being disgust at the office. What do you do? Studies show that most people would rather hear about a awkward personal hygiene issue from a friend, a colleague or a co-worker than from someone in HR or a supervisor. Think about it as the broccoli on the tooth rule, help someone out. If you can help someone avoid further awkwardness or embarrassment by raising and awkward or difficult situation do it. Most people are gonna appreciate you making that effort. For me the clue here, is a person with whom you are reasonably friendly, you've got some standing in this relationship. So how do you do it? How do you do it well? How do you have that awkward conversation in a way that's effective? Well, there's a couple of things you can keep in mind, one the goal is to correct the behavior and not to embarrass the person. How do you do that? You discuss it in private. I learned a tactic from someone who worked for a very powerful tech company, we could generalize and say people who work in tech, people who are computer folks aren't great with social skills, this was a phenomenal social skill I learned from someone who worked in tech, prime people for difficult or awkward conversations. Go it's a little awkward, there's something I wanna talk to you about, is now a good time? Yeah sure. They've now given you permission to have that awkward or difficult conversation. Get your mental state correct, remind yourself that your goal is to help them correct the situation, you wanna discuss it in private, give the benefit of the doubt. I'm not sure if you're aware of this. Respect their intelligence, their integrity, the fact that they probably wouldn't be proceeding without addressing it if they knew. Tell them if roles were reversed. You would want them to talk to you about it. You know, if it was me I would really hope you would feel comfortable talking to me about this. Tell them you care about them be explicit, this has quotation marks around it because I want you to use this exact language, I care about you and your success here. And then finally, be direct, let 'em know what it is. This is about bad breath. The temptation to kinda tiptoe around it, when I work this problem as a difficult situation in a problem solving process, people come up with all kinds of ways to get this message to someone. Well we're gonna start with breath mints and gum, we're gonna start with a general discussion about bad breath and personal hygiene. We're gonna talk to HR and have them do a company-wide policy about- Just talk to the person. Tell 'em you'd like to talk about something difficult, if they have a minute. Yeah sure, no problem. Get their buy-in. Tell 'em you care about them, tell 'em you'd want them to talk to you about something similar. Let 'em know what it is. Be ready to listen. I know I've battled halitosis my own life, it's a medical condition, I had no idea. Thank you for telling me, could be as simple as that. Let's start to escalate. Let's think about a different kind of difficult situation. You witness a colleague give a horrible presentation. Afterward, you're gathering things, you leave, he says to you I think it went great, what do you think? You don't think it went so great, you think it was pretty terrible. How do you give critical feedback? How do you give critical feedback in a way that somebody that's not excited to hear it, gets it? This person thinks it went great. Something I often hear when I ask this question is oh, you give them a compliment sandwich. You tell 'em something was good, you tell them about the thing that wasn't so good, you tell 'em about something else that was great. The compliment sandwich, we're gonna talk about effective compliments at the end of our course here today. People know about the compliment sandwich, there's something about it that can, can reveal itself in a way that doesn't always feel so genuine or so sincere. I really like the praise, concern, suggest framework. That you do offer that praise, you mention your concerns but if you're gonna raise something that's difficult you're also willing to be part of the solution. So I like that praise, concern, suggest framework. The other thing that I like is the idea that you defer this conversation, you say, I'd love to talk to you about it, let's talk about it a little later. That you set yourself up to listen, you ask someone how they thought it went. I thought it went pretty well. You know, I worked on my charts all day but the projector broke before we got here so I couldn't share them. You might be thinking to yourself, boy I wanted him to have some charts but what I really need to tell him is that you need to work on your tech setup before the meeting starts. There's a great expression in French etiquette, it's a French word, kinda creeps into the etiquette talk once in a while, I won't mangle it but it goes something like, it's easier to question the use of artillery once the battle's been fought. Do you have standing to offer the critique? Ask the person how they thought it went. Set yourself up, start to build that standing a little bit. You start to solidify that standing by being willing to be part of the solution. So when you're dealing with a difficult situation or giving critical feedback, stay calm, do it in private, try the praise, concern, suggest framework. When you're offering that critical feedback, propose your solution, stick to the issue at hand, if the conversation starts to go in a different direction or if its not a good or appropriate time to have 'em, have that conversation defer. Tell 'em you'd really like to talk to them about it later, you'd like to think about it a little bit. If the conversation's not going well, ask for the other person's perspective, be willing to negotiate and if you do reach a solution, if you bring up that suggestion, try to get their buy-in. Just because you suggested it, doesn't mean that it's going to be resolved. Are you okay with this? Do you think that's a good way to proceed? I'd love to work with you the next time you give a presentation, try a practice run beforehand. Do you think that's a good idea? Yeah that'd be so great, I'd love the chance to practice before I give the next sales presentation. My final tip here is about knowing what your bottom line is. I like to pepper these talks with things my mother tells me. She always used to say, think about the extremes in any situation, think about the best possible outcome and the worst possible outcome, that's gonna help you find that middle ground territory where you're gonna be most comfortable. When it's a really difficult situation, I think sometimes knowing what your bottom line is is a really effective way to feel more comfortable. You know if I can't get this person to talk about it, I can talk to our boss about finding someone else who can do these sales presentations. The information they gave was so bad that we're going to need to talk to our client about it. There's nothing I can do, the person who gave the presentation is my boss, I have no control over this situation. My bottom line is I can choose to leave this place of work, I'm not gonna do that. Just articulating for yourself what the absolute extremes are, can help you feel more confident, calm and composed in whatever area's that middle territory.