Readers are invited to submit a question which we will then pose to one of our Forbes Councils members. This group is full of knowledge and experience — we’re eager to share their insights with you.
Question: How Do I Deliver Constructive Feedback and Ensure Open Communication?
I need to deliver some unpleasant feedback, and I am not sure how to start and carry on this difficult conversation. How do I provide feedback without creating an upset?
Meet our Executive: Kasia Jamroz, Executive Business Leadership Coach, Conscious Leading Solutions
Forbes Coaches Council member Kasia Jamroz is a conscious leadership & life coach, personal and organizational transformation advocate, trainer, facilitator and NCS certified consultant. She believes in irresistible power of choice, collaboration, self- awareness and living life congruent with our highest values.
Answer: Be prepared. Be specific. Ask questions.
Difficult conversations are never easy. They almost always bring discomfort, so we have learned to avoid them. One of the reasons for discomfort is that we tend to mistake our emotions for the facts. Also, we don’t like those who give us feedback that is more negative than our view of ourselves.
Yet effective communication depends on our ability to talk about difficult topics without getting emotional. And avoiding communication eliminates the opportunity to address the source of the problem.
So where do we start?
- Be prepared: Have a plan for the conversation. Know and understand your own feelings about the situation and where they are coming from.
- Be specific: Use “feedforward” instead of “feedback,” which will allow the recipient to move beyond defensive reactions. Focus on specific behavior and make your comments actionable. Build the bridge between where the person is and where you want the person to be by giving a clear suggestion. Be confident in their ability to achieve it.
- Ask questions: Engage the person in the conversation by asking powerful questions like “What is your opinion on that?” or “What would you do if you were in my position?” Remember to stay away from using “always” or “never” in your conversation.
Keep in mind — what you resist, persists. Unspoken issues tend to fester and resurface, so early detection and communication are key to creating a psychologically safe space where both parties feel heard and acknowledged.