How often do you give feedback to someone about something you’re not happy with and end up in a big argument?
Until I learned some amazingly simple communication skills, that’s what used to happen to me.
Not backward in coming forward, I often expressed how I felt.
Nothing wrong with that and in fact, we encourage you to share how you’re feeling and what’s going on.
What was wrong with it was the way I expressed it; the language I used and we’re not necessarily talking about swearing.
“Why didn’t you put the butter back in the fridge?”
“You did a terrible job of typing that document.”
“Great job! Woohoo, well done, NOT.”
You can imagine that being on the end of remarks like this wouldn’t make you feel good.
In fact, you’d probably feel resentful and possibly even look for an opportunity to take revenge in some form or other.
If you choose your words carefully when giving negative feedback, your message will “land” better for the other person.
They will be more likely to hear what you have to say and make any changes.
For example, “I didn’t see the homework in my inbox” versus “You haven’t submitted your homework”.
“I’d really appreciate it if you could put the butter back in the fridge when you’ve finished with it please.”
“I have a number of comments and changes to make to the document please.”
“I think we can improve on how we do this. Let’s work together to streamline the process and make it more accurate.”
Did you notice that all four examples above started with “I”?
We call these I-Messages or I-Statements.
With I-Messages we take responsibility for the message. We are sharing how it is for us so others cannot argue that what we’re saying isn’t right. They might not like hearing the feedback, however they can’t dispute that’s what you think or how you feel.
In our Leading Yourself and Leading Others Experience we spend a couple of days learning how to communicate better; learning how to word things so the feedback lands better for the recipient.
There’s a saying that “People react to the manner rather than the message” reminding us not to yell and scream and be overly dramatic, however people do also react to the words you use.
Next time you have some negative feedback to give someone, think about how your words will land.
Have a go at using an I-Message and describing the situation without looking to blame or make up a story about what you think happened and why.
And on “why”. Don’t use that word if you want to gain more information from someone.
For many, the word “why” feels like a judgement or an interrogation.
“Why didn’t you leave earlier than that?”
The implied meaning is that “I should have left earlier. I am wrong. I am bad. I am in trouble.”
This language can cause us to become defensive and hostile.
Even if you are annoyed that you have been kept waiting, you can assert yourself using language that will be more easily received, e.g. “I was expecting you to leave at 9:00am to arrive at my place at 9:30am this morning. I’m curious as to what happened causing the delay.”
Give it a go. Change your language and see how it lands.
The last thing you want is a crash landing.
Let me know how you go.
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P.P.S. Claim the date. Our next Loyal Lieutenant Masterclass Series starts Thursday 30th March 9:30am Sydney time for 9 weeks. Hands on training, creating and streamlining systems and processes for your team and organisation.