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Here's an interesting fact about feedback. What you do when not actually speaking is even more important than what you say when you are speaking. If you want to respond effectively, you first have to think about what it means to listen effectively. Then think through your response options carefully. You see, when you're speaking to someone and you've offered a bit of advice or feedback, don't expect some simplistic response whereby they quickly and enthusiastically thank you for sharing your wisdom. That's not likely. What is likely is a wide array of responses, which means your job Listen, I want you to keep in my these great tips for effective listening.
First, face the person. Look them in the eyes. Be relaxed instead of rigid and don't multitask. Together these things suggest you're physically engaged, attentive and respectful. Next, unless they say something completely offensive or outrageous, don't interrupt. Interrupting is considered by most people to be one of the most rude and demeaning interpersonal behaviors. Wait for a clear break before responding. While you're waiting, you have one main goal. Seek to understand not to judge or make premature conclusions.
It's very easy as the boss to think you're right. And very often you are. But to have that as your automatic first response is a problem. Two unproductive things happen when you do that. First, you miss out on the opportunity to fully understand what they're saying. Which means your response won't be ideal. Second, almost always, you're non-verbal behaviors betray you, and they can tell you're not really listening. Instead, try to repeat to yourself a concise summary of what they're saying, the main point and the supporting ideas.
Take mental notes while resisting a rush to judgment. Now let's assume they've made their point and hit a pause, so it's your turn to respond. I want you to think about beginning your response with a small amount of summarizing. That's when you begin by reiterating and paraphrasing what they said in order to be sure you heard them correctly. And to let them know you did hear them correctly. The longer their statement the more useful a summary can be. If the statement is particularly short skip the summary because if used to often a summary can be seen as a technique or tactic, which means it can be interpreted as patronizing.
Next, you could dive in and say, interesting point, now here's my take on this. But it might be smarter to begin with a question. If you heard them say something that didn't sound highly credible, a question about it often brings them closer to reality. For example, if they say, Janine is always late and that's why my report is late so often, because I depend on her. You could say, okay, you said she's always late? This almost always makes reality more clear. They're likely follow by saying, well she's usually late twice per week.
To which you can reply, okay, then what are the other causes we should consider. To take this one step further, if you feel it's time to impose your preferred solution, you can still benefit by posing it as a question. For example, instead of saying the answer is to begin the report on Wednesday instead of Thursday to ensure it's done by the end of the week, you could say, is there a way to shift your tasks around so that you can start the report earlier in the week? Better still, you can pose two or three quick questions to see if they will choose one as the solution.
Of course if needed, you can assert the solution you prefer, but the question approach allows them to step up and adopt a path forward without you dictating it. Feedback involves a lot of speaking and listening. Thanks to our self-confidence and our feeling of always being rushed, we too often focus on what to say. That's only half the battle. The more you become a great listener, the more prepared your responses will be. And if you remember the advice we discussed for how to respond effectively, your employees won't feel like you're talking down to them.
Instead, feedback will feel more like a natural and expected collaboration.
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