The joke around here is our slogan is, “we put our clients where they belong” and that goes both to be on the pedestal, and to be wherever else you need. It is honest feedback that many of my clients are looking for and appreciate. But there is a key element of putting someone somewhere other than on a pedestal that everyone should understand. Â There is a difference between the person and their behavior. Â Behavior should be on purpose. Â If a person does something without thinking, that can be changed. Â But the fundamental person really should not be messed with as they are who they are and if they want to change, that has to come from within.
I mention this because recently I had someone want to give a friend some constructive criticism. Â In his effort to couch the “bad news” appropriately, he all but dismissed the person who brought the issue to his attention, made it about my friend as a person rather than about the behavior, and really damaged their friendship of several years. Â I completely understand what he was trying to do – when my friend described the conversation I saw what he was trying to say and why it went so wrong – but even after explaining it didn’t feel any better to my friend because he can’t let go of how it made him feel. And that is sad.
When it is time to give feedback to someone, first consider why you want to share this. Â In this case the problem was brought to this person by another person on a committee. Do you find it valid? Â Just because someone brings up a concern, doesn’t mean it has to be shared. Â If you don’t find it valid, file it away and only act if it comes up multiple times. Â Next, determine what the behavior is that you object to. If the answer is, “oh that’s just him”, you can’t change that and people are going to have to accept him or not. But trying to change it isn’t going to help. Once you’ve identified the behavior, you are ready to address it.
The next step is to look at your relationship with the person. Are you both straight shooters? Or does the other person need a little hand-holding when given bad news? I have even gone so far as to explain this mindset to the person I was counseling. Â If you explain to someone that as a person you think they are great and there is one, isolated behavior you need to discuss, you can still close with how much you think of them, their work, etc. and get your point across. It isn’t relevant in a lot of cases how you know about the behavior or trying to downplay it. If it was important enough to discuss, be upfront about it.
Giving anyone feedback can be a difficult process but always remember: isolate the behavior and only address that. Â Leave the person intact.