Dear Dr. Karyn,
Are there some special kinds of tips a parent should use to give feedback well? I’ve been told by my husband and two kids that I’m not very good at it! Help!
Great question! The topic of feedback is definitely one of those topics where the tools are exactly the same for parents, young adults, employees, or managers! Feedback done well strengthens relationships and is one of the best ways we can improve personally and professionally, so learning how to give and receive it are essential skills! Below are seven tips below on how to give feedback effectively!
Many people shy away from giving feedback thinking, “they should know this,” or, “I shouldn’t have to tell them.” The reality is that no one can read our minds, so it’s our responsibility to tell them our thoughts. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as reality, only perception. So when sharing your feedback, be sure to say “From my perspective,” or, “the way I see it.” Remember that people will see (and remember) different perspectives.
When giving feedback, you want to make sure that the receiver will hear it, so to help this, make sure you choose the timing carefully! The best time is when you are relaxed, the receiver is relaxed, and you have the time to discuss it further (employees will often say lunchtime works the best, and parents often say evening is the ideal time).
When having the courage to voice your thoughts, be careful with your language and be sure to use “I” (I think, I feel, I value, I need). Using the word “you” will often trigger a defensive reaction in others, and as a result they won’t hear what you are trying to say. The key is that you want to respect yourself by voicing what you really think, while respecting your listener in the process.
Before bringing up an issue, be sure to first tell the person what he is doing well (give authentic examples). Some people find this manipulative, sneaky, or “a waste of time” (so I’ve been told). I find this tip essential for two reasons: First, while we all have areas to work on, there are likely other areas that we are doing well in, so it’s more of a full picture to tell a person both sides. Secondly, anyone who has studied human motivation knows that most people are far more motivated to change, and more likely to listen, when they are told first what they are doing well! For this tip to work, though, praise must be given regularly! If people only hear positive encouragement at the time of critical feedback, they will start to resent it.
When addressing the criticism, be specific with what needs to be changed. A lot of people use negative statements, which are very ineffective (“You never clean your room”). Focus on telling the person what you do want, not just what you don’t want (it’s more clear and it’s more positive). For example, “I really need you to tidy your room before you watch TV”
These type of conversations can be difficult (and draining for many) so you want to get to the point as quickly and effectively as you can! Don’t beat around the bush or give five examples — stay focused!
The most effective types of conversations around feedback are when they are two-way, not one-way. So be sure to give time to ask the receiver his thoughts on what you’ve said. It allows you to know what he is thinking, strategize possible solutions, and also helps him to clarify what you need from him.
Dr. Karyn Gordon is the best-selling author of “Dr. Karyn’s Guide to the Teen Years” (Harper Collins), a relationship and parenting expert, speaker, and founder of dk leadership, www.dklead