How to give emotionally intelligent feedback

about feedback, Communication


We all can benefit from feedback. The purpose of giving feedback is to improve a situation or to help others get better. And yet giving feedback is difficult because it often comes across as criticism or perhaps even hurtful to others. How do you make sure that your feedback is really helpful, so it really  brings out the best in other people?

As a manager, team leader or colleague, it is necessary to give others feedback. But sometimes it is not what  they want to hear and we get misunderstanding or even resistance. The way we give feedback makes a big difference whether other will be open to it or not.

Emotional intelligence can help.

To give feedback effectively, you need to get to know the others: their strengths and weaknesses, their motivations and drives, their communication style. Keep in mind that what works for one person may not necessarily work for everyone. With an emotionally intelligent approach, you can tailor the feedback to the person in question. Your impact will be much stronger.

Moreover, if you approach employees or colleagues from their own preferences, beliefs and skills, they will recognize themselves better in the feedback and be more open to it.

Let's look at an example.

Your colleague Maryke's behavior is going in the wrong direction. She invariably comes late to meetings, doesn't seem focused and in recent weeks she has been dropping more and more stitches. Yet Maryke is a valuable colleague with a lot of potential. How can you reverse the trend?

It starts with an honest conversation.

Start by mentioning that something has changed and that there is a gap between her past and present work. Ask her what's going on. And then listen. You don't have to solve the problem yourself, but you can listen and help find a solution.

Of course, these kinds of solutions take time and may require several conversations. Empathy will go a long way.
By opening yourself up, you can show Mary that you are on her side: someone who is trying to help and not judge. Do that, and you may inspire her to do things differently.

But what if you want to give feedback to someone with a strong personality? Someone with a strong opinion and who knows what he is talking about. Maybe this person is higher in rank, longer in service or has more experience than you.

This situation can be uncomfortable, especially if this colleague or employee resists your feedback and is quick to get defensive. How do you turn this situation to your advantage?

Here are some simple but effective tips to make sure your feedback reaches its target.

Think about your tone of voice and body language.

The way you say something often has more impact than the content itself. Sometimes giving or receiving feedback can cause you to become emotional. Staying calm and neutral is important to make sure you are heard.

Do it face-to-face.

The importance of body language is also why it is better to give feedback in person or via video call. Giving feedback via text, Whatsapp or email is playing with fire. There is a lot of room for miscommunication because just the non-verbal nuance is missing. It may seem much easier and safer (you are not immediately confronted with the possible reaction of the other) but if there is any possibility of misinterpretation or if the feedback is sensitive, do it in person.

Provide the right framework.

Choose the most appropriate time. Is the other in a good mood? Is he or she open to feedback? Are you alone, in a quiet environment? Maybe it's a good idea to schedule a meeting or give the feedback outside the work environment. Make sure you create the best conditions for giving the feedback.
Give feedback on one thing at a time.

Sometimes there are several things that bother you or that you want to discuss. Don't overwhelm the other with a barrage of feedback, especially if it can be perceived as negative. Choose one topic at a time, and only bring up another topic if it is related to the first. It is usually better to have different points of feedback in different conversations. That way it comes across as less threatening or overwhelming to the other.

Be solution-oriented.

Try to approach the conversation with a helpful attitude: after all, you are trying to help your colleague or team member become better. Emphasize the importance of the team. Give positive feedback, too. Just as you probably like knowing you did your job well, the other will appreciate it too.

More information: Communication Skills Training

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