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Why is it so hard to give feedback without people getting angry?
It’s a status game.
The source of the difficulty here lies in who comes up with the solution. Paul’s suggestion makes him look smarter, and Eric less smart. This impacts their relative status, which Eric is likely to fight against. The better Paul’s answer is, the more likely Eric might resist it. It’s bizarre… Paul’s giving out suggestions also threatens Eric’s autonomy: it’s no longer Eric’s choice to follow a specific path.
So how do you get around this? Don’t give a solution, ask questions:
Eric isn’t going to take action until he has an idea that fits with his own thinking. In his current over-aroused state, he quickly rejects external ideas. Given that Eric is at an impasse, Paul needs to help him find an insight to solve this problem. If Paul can’t make direct suggestions, why can’t he just give Eric some clues about what to think about, perhaps posing a good suggestion as a question?
If you merely guide with questions, but they come up with the solution themselves, they’re less likely to feel threatened and more likely to follow through:
Instead of your looking for a gap in the form of the source of another person’s problem, the other person is finding a gap in his own thinking process. It’s not you searching for problems; it’s him searching for gaps in his thinking process. You want people to look for assumptions or decisions that don’t make sense upon further reflection.
The more you can help people find their own insights, the easier it will be to help others be effective, even when someone has lost the plot on an important project. Bringing other people to insight means letting go of “constructive performance feedback,” and replacing it with “facilitating positive change.” Instead of thinking about people’s problems and giving feedback or making suggestions, change can be facilitated faster in many instances if you think about people’s thinking, and help others think about their own thinking better. However, letting go of the default approach to problem-solving requires working against the way your brain wants to go,
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