Strategies for Giving Feedback That People Can Hear

More often than not, we are surprised when we get a negative reaction after having provided feedback to a peer or colleague.  We are surprised that they were defensive, even hostile with us.  After all, our intent was only to make things better — for them, the team or the patient.  We can come away from that kind of interaction feeling misunderstood at best and disrespected at worst.

You may wish to consider the following steps prior to giving anyone feedback:

1.      Ask them if they want feedback.  “Something is on my mind, and I’d like to share it with you.  Are you okay with that?  Is this a good time?  You may be ready to have the ‘chat,’ but they have had no preparation, could be busy with other things, and may not be ready to engage.

2.     Phrase the feedback as a check-in to get clarification, rather than as an opportunity to ‘correct’ the other person.  Ask yourself .. Is it possible that my view is incorrect, or perhaps different than there’s?  “I notice that we do this procedure differently.  “Can I check in with you about X procedure? 

3.     Declare your intent in raising this issue.  “I brought this up with you because I want to make sure that I’m doing it according to our professional standards.”   Instead of “You made a mistake doing X procedure!!”

4.     Check yourself in terms of your tone, facial expressions, body language and words before you have the conversation.   Coach yourself so you intentionally do not come across as ‘finger pointing,’ ‘judging,’ or ‘self-righteous.”  You want your language and approach to come from a place of learning, curiosity and openness.  Being tuned into how you are coming across will help to keep the conversation intact for both parties.

5.     Don’t expect the other person to receive your feedback perfectly.  You may have caught them off guard, or they don’t know how to respond.  So, if the other person slips up and becomes defensive or disrespectful, try to be patient.  Instead of getting defensive yourself, make a repair with them calmly and compassionately, “I didn’t bring this up because I wanted to question your methods.  I raised this with you because I saw a difference, and I want to make sure I’m doing it correctly.”  


Kathy Popaleni

Kathy Popaleni works as a conflict management specialist for a large hospital (Grand River Hospital) in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.  MORE >

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