It Ain’t Easy, But So Worth It

In my first professional gig, the boss sat me down one day to explain that I was being defensive when people criticized my work. Of course, my first thought was, “What do you mean I’m defensive? Who told you that?”

I was so terrified to make a mistake that I was turning away the people who could help me the most. But her feedback was a necessary turning point for me.

Telling someone at home or work how you feel about their actions is rarely easy. Today we’ll look at giving feedback, and in a future blog, we’ll examine ways to stay open to hearing it.

A bad way to give feedback is in front of people.

Years ago I worked for a nonprofit. I walked into work in a great mood. My co-workers were already gathered around the table drinking coffee and getting ready for our staff meeting. The executive director looks up at me from her seat and snaps, “Do you know that we were charged $X because you forgot to refill the gas tank from the rental car we took to the workshop last week? We don’t have money to waste because someone couldn’t be bothered to fill the tank before returning the car.”

Is that really the way you help people improve their performance?

Choose a convenient time for both of you. For home with your partner, it may be after the kids have gone to bed. On the job, set up a meeting time. Find somewhere private to speak, and close the door. Start by telling the person something good. Be sincere. You could tell your partner how much you appreciate them or your co-worker how much you respect their work. Then be specific about happened. Don’t bring up old conflicts. Avoid always or never. One issue at a time.

Then begin by saying how you feel. Don’t say, “You made me late again.” Instead try “I’m frustrated that I’m late for work because you’re not ready. It makes me look bad at work and starts my day on a sour note.”

Wanting to be right is a short-term high that destroys relationships. Focus your message on a solution and what you want to happen. “What can we do differently so we can both be on time for work?”

There’s no guarantee that you will get what you want. But it will improve your chances and strengthen your relationships.

What will you do differently next time you receive feedback?

You also can read this article in the newspaper The District News, available throughout the Saint John region.

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