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Through the course of a group meeting, sooner or later someone will have an alternative viewpoint or have feedback to offer. When that happens, there are a few rules of thumb to keep in mind to make sure that the meeting moves along and that the feedback is positive. The first rule of thumb that I recommend to all attendees is to focus your comments on actions and on results. All too often, it's easy to assume the motives behind what someone says or to get caught up in personality differences.
For the purpose of a group meeting, it's important to leave the personality, assumptions, and emotions out of the equation. Focus simply on the actions, meaning the steps that people are taking, and the results that they're getting from those actions. What did their actions achieve? If you focus your comments on actions and results, the likelihood of emotion getting mixed into the feedback becomes very low. The second rule of thumb that I would give you is use softening words that leave room for the possibility that you could be wrong.
I also call this the Ben Franklin Principal. In his autobiography, Franklin recounted how he had the habit of stating his opinions very strongly. A friend took him aside and said that by saying the same things, but with softening words, people would be more likely to listen to his opinion. From that point forward, Franklin made a personal commitment to stop using words like "certainly" and "undoubtedly" and replace them with "I imagine" and "it appears" to me.
For example, rather than saying "it absolutely must be the color green," say "to me it seems like green would be a good choice." Not only will that make others more receptive to your point of view, but it will also give you the opportunity to correct yourself if it turns out later that your opinion was wrong. The third suggestion that I would give you is be open, be receptive. When someone shares something with you that appears to be criticism or even positive feedback, avoid responding to it immediately.
Say, thank you, make a note about it and think about it later. As you pause for reflection, you may find out that what they say is true and even if you don't agree with their perspective, you'll be able to craft a response later when you're calm and relaxed. And finally, my fourth suggestion is for the meeting leader in particular. If a heated discussion grows, the recurring group meeting is not the time and place to have that discussion. Usually, it's a better idea to schedule a separate meeting to deal with specific heated issues.
While you want to avoid excessive meetings, holding a special meeting for an emotionally charged issue can be a wise choice. A separate freeform meeting will give you plenty of time to cover every opinion and give people the freedom to relax and not feel that they're under the pressure of the clock. Follow these four rules of thumb when it comes to giving and receiving feedback and your meetings will stay productive and focused on results.
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