"Libras Are Just So Logical!"
"You Libras are so logical!"
When someone makes a comment like the one above, the response that comes to mind is, "What . . . you expect me to change my birthday . . . not possible!"
Or how about this one? "I don't like it that you're so tall." What am I supposed to do with that? I can't make myself shorter.
Both of these statements address unchangeable aspects of an individual. As feedback, they are useless since there is nothing that the receiver of the message can do to change them.
If on the other hand my colleague addresses a specific behavior, the outcome is very different. Behavior can be changed and this why the second principle of effective feedback involves directing statements toward the receiver's potentially changeable behavior.
Why not say, "I'd appreciate it if you could listen. Solutions are great, BUT right now, I just want you simply to hear what I'm saying."? This statement provides feedback about changing behavior from problem solving to listening.
Instead of giving feedback about a person's height, what if the message had been, "You know one of the challenges of being in a wheelchair is that I'm always leaning back and arching my neck to see people's faces. I'd be really appreciative if you would sit down when you come to talk with me."
Now that's a request (and feedback) that I can act upon! I can remember to sit down next to John's desk when I want to talk with him.
Think about your communications over the last several weeks (and be honest with yourself). How many times did you address unchangeable aspects of someone rather than focussing on changeable behavior? It was probably numerous times.
If you want to achieve change and improvement with your feedback it must not only be specific and detailed, but also focus on the receiver's changeable behavior!
Next topic: Saving Face