The structures for positive and negative feedback are almost the same. Lets look at what people find difficult.
First, our natural instinct as humans is to focus on the negative.
You drive to work. On the way, some idiot cuts through the traffic right in front of you as if their Grandfather owns the road. Never a glance in your direction as they cause you to slam your brakes on and stare fearfully in the rear view mirror, hoping the car behind won’t hit you.
You get to work, grab a coffee, and spend the next fifteen minutes telling everyone you can find about this complete jerk who has spoiled your day. And at frequent intervals throughout the day you find yourself mentally rehearsing EXACTLY what you would have said to him at the next traffic lights, if you had the courage to get out of the car and do it!
What a waste of time and mental energy!
Did you give any thought to the hundreds of drivers you encountered on the way to work? NO. Did you give another though or even mention to anyone the really nice lady who let you in to the traffic queue? NO
Total focus on the negative.
The other thing that inhibits us is the emotions.
When giving feedback, we often speak in generalizations. And generalizations tend to make us emotional.
“Peter, you are always turning up late for team meetings!” you shout angrily.
“I was on time yesterday” snaps Peter. Oh dear, two problems, first we are now into a slanging match, yes you are, no I’m not,; secondly the emotions and tempers can escalate.
So rule one is: Only state specific observable facts. “Peter, I noticed you have been late for the last five out of seven meetings. No argument, and when you state facts, the emotion goes away.
Rule 2: Tell them how you feel. “I feel irritated and sometimes downright angry when we start meeting late”
Rule 3: State the Impact. “When we start meeting late it causes the whole day to run behind.
For positive feedback, use the same principles: “Peter, your presentation yesterday gave the facts in a very clear and concise manner. everyone in the room understood the key points and what we need to do. Nice job. I feel proud of having someone with those capabilities on my team. It makes me and you look good to the boss, keep it up”.
So, be specific, don’t get emotional and don’t be afraid to state the emotions.
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