For years I've asked the question:
What stops you from giving feedback?
Not surprisingly, the response is consistently the same:
1) I don't know how the person is going to react;
2) I don't think they will take it well. I think they will be upset or defensive and I don't know how to handle it.
It's natural for us to feel uncomfortable when we don't think we can be in control of a situation or predict the outcome. Our brain reacts to uncertainty as a major stressor that could be the equivalent of a life-threatening situation. Since the dawn of man, our amygdala, or the oldest part of our brain, deals instinctively with stress by triggering an emotional and physical fight, flight or freeze response in us. When we're in a place of uncertainty, our brain says, no, I don't like it. It could mean danger. Red alert. Red alert.
How do we overcome the Red Alert Syndrome that prevents us from embracing the art of giving feedback?
It helps to know some key steps in the process. It is all about practice and applying techniques to create a climate for successful candid conversations.
When and where to have a feedback conversation.
Let's start here. Giving candid or difficult feedback isn't easy especially when you're unsure of how the person might respond. Give consideration to the following:
What if the person gets emotional?
What if the person interrupts you, cries, yells or acts defensively? This is a realistic concern. Just know that you can't control how a person responds. All you are in control of is how you deliver your message and how you manage your own behaviour.
When dealing with emotional reactions, it helps to:
Stay firm in your decision to give feedback even if you can't predict how the person will respond. Drown out any red alert signals by concentrating on how you will deliver your message, how you will conduct yourself during the conversation and remember that the purpose of your feedback is to help the person be successful.