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Giving feedback, good and bad, is tough. It might not be as physically difficult as running a marathon or building a house, but it feels just as effortful at times. It can be a psychologically taxing duty, wrought with head trash:

  • How will the person take it?
  • Will they actually implement it? Why even waste my time?
  • I never give feedback the right way. I’ll do more harm than good.
  • Don’t give too much praise; it’ll go to their head!
  • This is so uncomfortable, I hate conflict!

The list goes on and on. The thing is, I just did a Google search on giving feedback and got “About 479,000,000 results (0.58 seconds).” That’s a ton! …the first several pages of which extolled the virtues and benefits of doing it. So, if the benefits are so obvious and logical, why is it such a struggle? Why all the head trash? What’s so difficult about telling people how they’re doing!?

Well, I think what’s less obvious, and definitely not logical, is that it’s emotional! Based on my experiences, the resistance I get to giving feedback has little to do with the facts– it’s uncomfortable. I think the emotional resistance to giving feedback can be understood by categorizing them into areas. These areas can be fundamental to human nature and therefore experienced in one form or another by everyone. It’s almost like we’re programmed to resist.

  • Control. We can’t control the outcome of giving feedback. What I mean is, if I give myself feedback, I can be in charge of succeeding or failing to improve. Giving feedback to another person means offering commentary, advice, and/or solutions, but the other person has to implement it.
  • Conflict. Let’s face it, giving negative feedback sometimes feels like picking a fight. Even positive feedback can feel this way because we’re afraid it may cause a future conflict if it goes to the person’s head and they become a prima donna. The fear of conflict has to be overcome.
  • Time. Giving feedback enough time to work takes time. Some people are easily receptive to feedback. Others need it presented just the right way, and need time to implement it.
  • Perfectionism. Finding the “right,” (scratch that). Finding good enough words to use and tonality takes a lot of thought and experience. It means learning new things and failing along the way. A lot of times it means stepping out of our default method of communicating and acting in a way that is new and uncomfortable.
  • Entitlement. This is a tough one. For example, “I mean, really! I’m paying these people good money. They “should” know better! Why do I have to keep babysitting people!” Ultimately, I think this stems from conflict avoidance, or possibly feeling insecurity or vulnerability. Either way, this is fear.
  • Superiority. For some people, giving feedback, I think, offends their sense of humility. A lot of this usually has to do with uncertainty around how the other person will receive it. It’s possible they might think I feel superior to them, …so I’m Bein’ all high and mighty, givin’ people my feedback.
  • Determinism: This, I think, is the toughest one of all. In other words, “it won’t work.” Whatever “it” is, don’t even bother; the outcome is already determined. What’s fascinating about this is, it’s true! If you go in thinking it’s not gonna work, it probably won’t!

Do any of these sound familiar? If not, maybe I missed one (Please add your thoughts in the comments below). But a lot of business owners do struggle in these areas. If you think this might be you, know that you are not alone!

The first step to solving this issue, it seems to me, is asking yourself, “Do I really want the challenge of building a great team?” Hopefully, the answer is “Yes!” If not, then the problems above will likely be enough to stop you.

However, if you are passionate about building a great team, then giving feedback is something you must get good at. Period. Conquering these emotional challenges is a worthy cause. The first step is to see the issues listed above as things that must be overcome.

Take some time over the next week to identify which category(s) describe you. Challenge yourself to ask, “Why do I think this way?” Be committed to overcoming these reasons. I would even recommend doing the same Google search I did for “giving feedback”. There’s a lot of great information out there.

In Part 2, I’ll be exploring two ways that I’ve seen work for others, Identity/Role Theory and Positive Self-Talk.

All the Best!

-Andrew

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