Feedback Conversations Start in Your Head

Feedback conversations begin with the conversation you have with yourself.

You’ve been playing scenarios out in your head since you decided to give corrective feedback.

Develop a positive attitude and proactive posture before feedback conversations begin.

#1. Choose proactive language. Reject defensiveness.

The conversation you have in your head prepares you for the worst. You anticipate and answer imagined resistance. Practice saying things like:

  1. Assume this feedback is on point. What suggestions would you have for yourself?
  2. Imagine this feedback reflects a reality that you don’t see about yourself. What behaviors might resolve this?
  3. Suppose this feedback is for someone else. What behaviors/practices might help them move forward?

#2. Move toward optimistic thinking.

Place an X on a line that represents your confidence about “Barney’s” potential for improvement.


If your X is closer to doubtful, list three reasons why you didn’t place the X even further toward the left? Give yourself an opportunity to move toward confidence.


If your X is closer to the right, list three reasons for confidence.

#3. Shift language from negative to nonjudgmental.

  • Choose to say “redirecting feedback” instead of “negative feedback”.
  • You might drop the adjective. Just call it “feedback”.
  • Rehearse saying, “I notice,” rather than, “I have feedback.”

#4. List what you really want for Barney.

A noble end is fuel for the journey.

My hopes for Barney include: (What do you really want for the person?)

5 feedback tips:

  1. Explore concerns before making conclusions.
  2. Adopt practices that feel good to you. Choose to walk and talk, rather than sitting in an office, for example.
  3. Don’t wait for big issues to pursue excellence. Frequency elevates comfort. Have regular performance conversations.
  4. Give feedback immediately. Delay is the enemy, unless your emotions are hot.
  5. Commit to the success of everyone on your team. Their success results in organizational success. It’s also yours.

How might leaders manage the conversation they have in their heads before feedback conversations begin?

What tips might help leaders succeed with feedback?

Garbage Can Basketball & Feedback [Video 3:55]