The Three Conversations that Follow Feedback


Three conversations follow negative feedback; excuse, denial, and/or tell-me-more.

Excuse-conversations blame. Everyone who says, “It’s not my fault,” subtly or directly says, “I’m not responsible for my negative behavior, they are.”

Excuses are the reason:

  1. You feel good about you and bad toward others.
  2. Frustration continues.
  3. Growth stops.
  4. Efficiency and effectiveness plummet.

Explore excuses don’t answer them. Then ask, “Which of their behaviors justify your attitudes and actions?

Mary may say, “I stopped communicating with Bob because he twisted my words.” Address substantive issues quickly, directly, and with everyone’s best interests in mind.

Never bring up what you aren’t prepared to address.

Denial-conversations reject feedback. “Thanks for the feedback but you’re wrong. I don’t do that.” Address denial with gentle authority.

Rather than explore denial, simply explain detrimental behaviors and their consequences. Call for and illustrate new behaviors you expect to see. Say, “When this happens I’d like you to …” Deal with denial another day.

Tell-me-more-conversations explore and address behavior not motivation. “I didn’t mean to,” is assumed. Motivation only matters when negative behaviors are intentional.

“Why did you do that?” is like asking Billy why he hit his sister, when there’s no legitimate reason for hitting her, in the first place. First ask, “What did you do?” Or, “What were you trying to accomplish?”

Consequences apply to malicious behavior. Feedback applies to weaknesses, inconsistencies, neglect, ignorance, or lack of skill.

Wake up call: Neglect may be the reason negative feedback is necessary. Did you:

  1. Assign the “wrong” person. “Right” people have aptitudes and abilities appropriate to assignments.
  2. Fail to adequately define outcomes.
  3. Provide adequate resources.
  4. Neglect timelines.
  5. Disregard training.

Feedback goals include:

  1. Heightened fulfillment.
  2. Confidence to embrace new behaviors.
  3. Enhanced effectiveness.
  4. Increases efficiency.
  5. Career development.
  6. Meaningful relationships.
  7. ???

Bonus: Next steps are usually enough. Perfect solutions don’t exist.

What types of conversations typically follow your negative feedback sessions?

How do you use negative feedback to achieve positive results?

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