Feedback That's Helpful and Allows Your Receiver to “Save Face”
Years ago, I made an elevator pitch/presentation to a group of angel investors. It was part of a day long showcase featuring all the startups in the accelerator hub where our group was located. This was the second time I had “pitched” an idea.
The first time was in the mid 80’s. Needless to say, the environment then was incredibly different. Back then I was pitching my idea to people that I knew and, equally important, who knew me. The pitch was more of a collegial discussion than a presentation.
This time the pitch was to complete strangers. Understandably, I was nervous, but still managed to pull myself together and deliver a credible presentation.
After I completed my presentation, I moved to the back of the room to stand next to our group’s CTO. He whispered in my ear, “I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but you looked nervous up there. Maybe it’s because I know you.” That comment left me thinking that I had let the group down and feeling really awful.
His feedback was unhelpful!
If instead the CTO had said, “I have suggestion if you’re interested,” then waited for me to indicate willingness to listen. He could have said, “Next time, consider placing your hands on either side of the podium until you’re ready to direct your audience’s attention to the presentation screen. I think that will help you look more authoritative.”
Now, that’s useful feedback because it’s information that I can apply to future presentations.
Helpfulness is another component of effective feedback — making comments that are helpful to the person listening (not to you!). Part of helpful feedback is also allowing the receiver to “save face.”
How do you ensure that your feedback is helpful to the person hearing it? While there are no guarantees, one of the best ways is to think about the words and comments that you would find helpful in the same situation.
As for “saving face,” make your comments relative and open ended rather than absolute. This approach enables you to provide feedback that your listener can use without becoming defensive (more on this later).
Feedback is a thorny area of communication for most businesspeople. Delivering effective, usable feedback takes practice and remembering the guidelines requires time. However, when you employ the framework laid out in these latest blog posts, your probability for success increases exponentially.
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