"Thanks for the Feedback"​ in < 500 words

by Andrew Wien

Posted on August 21, 2020

"Thanks for the Feedback"​ in < 500 words
The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well

Even when it’s off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and frankly, you’re not in the mood.

By Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, of the Harvard Negotiation Project and coauthors of Difficult Conversations

​Summary in less than 500 words:

 The receiver has more ability than the giver to make a feedback conversation constructive.

1: It’s natural, but not helpful, to get triggered when receiving feedback.

Trigger 1: This feedback is wrong. Why is it that when we give feedback it feels right, but when we receive feedback, it often feels wrong? See 2-4

2: Feedback describes three distinct conversations—appreciation, coaching, and evaluation. Clarify what conversation is happening, then communicate what kind of conversation you need right now.

3: While you may think the feedback is wrong, the giver is getting their information from somewhere. Shift to understand both where the information is coming from (i.e. what they saw in the past) and what they are recommending for the future (i.e. advice / expectations for your future actions).

4: You are not aware of your blind spots. They are magnified in three ways.

(a) Observers remember our emotions better than we do.

(b) Observers attribute our past outcomes to character, while we attribute our past outcomes to situation.

(c) Observers judge us based on our impact. We judge ourselves based on our intent.

To break through them, ask others “how am I getting in my own way?”

Trigger 2: This person should not be giving me this feedback. See 5-6

5: Beware of “switchtracking,” where both individuals start giving feedback and no one receives it. Split the conversation into two tracks. Example:
               Boss: You did not meet your sales numbers
               Salesperson: Why are you telling me this as I’m leaving for a long weekend?

6: Identify the relationship system, which involves you, me, the way we interact, the roles that we have in this situation, the processes we are following, and how other people are involved.

Trigger 3: This feedback threatens who I think I am

7: Both the way our brain is wired and our current emotional state at the time affect how we receive feedback. Folks with lower levels of baseline happiness will hear positive feedback more softly and negative feedback more loudly.

8: Before evaluating whether we agree or disagree, focus on removing our natural distortions. Know how you typically default to receiving feedback, separate thoughts, emotions, and their feedback, and contain the story (e.g. this is not about why your ex left you).

9: Take on a growth mindset, see coaching as coaching rather than evaluation, and evaluate yourself based on how you received the feedback.

10: Healthy relationships have boundaries—turn down feedback when you cannot receive it.

11: Navigate the feedback conversation in three phases: an opening to clarify purpose, the body to exchange information, and a close to align on next steps.

12: Improvement is hard, so just start. Focus on one thing.

13: For organizations, there is no perfect feedback system. Clearly explain the pros and the cons of the system you use. Use different processes for appreciation, coaching, and evaluation. Recognize there are individual differences in how people want to receive feedback.

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