The secret to giving great feedback | The Way We Work, a TED series

Transcriber: TED Translators admin If you look at a carpenter,
they have a toolbox; a dentist, they have their drills. In our era and the type of work
most of us are doing, the tool we most need is actually centered around being able to give
and receive feedback well. [The Way We Work] Humans have been talking
about feedback for centuries. In fact, Confucius, way back in 500 BC, talked about how important it is
to be able to say difficult messages well. But to be honest,
we're still pretty bad at it. In fact, a recent Gallup survey found that only 26 percent of employees
strongly agree that the feedback they get
actually improves their work.

Those numbers are pretty dismal. So what's going on? The way that most people
give their feedback actually isn't brain-friendly. People fall into one of two camps. Either they're of the camp
that is very indirect and soft and the brain doesn't even recognize
that feedback is being given or it's just simply confused, or they fall into the other
camp of being too direct, and with that, it tips the other person
into the land of being defensive. There's this part of the brain
called the amygdala, and it's scanning
at all times to figure out whether the message
has a social threat attached to it. With that, we'll move forward
to defensiveness, we'll move backwards in retreat, and what happens is the feedback giver
then starts to disregulate as well. They add more ums and ahs
and justifications, and the whole thing
gets wonky really fast. It doesn't have to be this way. I and my team have spent many years
going into different companies and asking who here
is a great feedback giver.

Anybody who's named again and again, we actually bring into our labs
to see what they're doing differently. And what we find
is that there's a four-part formula that you can use to say
any difficult message well. OK, are you ready for it? Here we go. The first part of the formula
is what we call the micro-yes.

Great feedback givers begin their feedback by asking a question
that is short but important. It lets the brain know
that feedback is actually coming. It would be something, for example, like, "Do you have five minutes to talk
about how that last conversation went" or "I have some ideas
for how we can improve things. Can I share them with you?" This micro-yes question
does two things for you. First of all, it's going to be
a pacing tool. It lets the other person know
that feedback is about to be given. And the second thing it does
is it creates a moment of buy-in. I can say yes or no
to that yes or no question. And with that,
I get a feeling of autonomy. The second part of the feedback formula
is going to be giving your data point. Here, you should name specifically
what you saw or heard, and cut out any words
that aren't objective. There's a concept we call blur words. A blur word is something that can mean
different things to different people. Blur words are not specific.

pexels photo 9786314

So for example, if I say
"You shouldn't be so defensive" or "You could be more proactive." What we see great feedback
givers doing differently is they'll convert their blur words
into actual data points. So for example, instead of saying, "You aren't reliable," we would say, "You said you'd get
that email to me by 11, and I still don't have it yet." Specificity is also important
when it comes to positive feedback, and the reason for that is that we want
to be able to specify exactly what we want the other person
to increase or diminish. And if we stick with blur words, they actually won't have
any clue particularly what to do going forward
to keep repeating that behavior.

The third part of the feedback
formula is the impact statement. Here, you name exactly
how that data point impacted you. So, for example, I might say,
"Because I didn't get the message, I was blocked on my work
and couldn't move forward" or "I really liked
how you added those stories, because it helped me
grasp the concepts faster." It gives you a sense of purpose and meaning and logic between the points, which is something
the brain really craves. The fourth part of the feedback
formula is a question. Great feedback givers wrap
their feedback message with a question.

They'll ask something like, "Well, how do you see it?" Or "This is what I'm thinking
we should do, but what are your thoughts on it?" What it does is it creates commitment
rather than just compliance. It makes the conversation
no longer be a monologue, but rather becomes a joint
problem-solving situation. But there's one last thing. Great feedback givers
not only can say messages well, but also, they ask for feedback regularly. In fact, our research
on perceived leadership shows that you shouldn't
wait for feedback to be given to you — what we call push feedback — but rather, you should
actively ask for feedback, what we call pulling feedback.

Pulling feedback establishes you
as a continual learner and puts the power in your hands. The most challenging situations are actually the ones
that call for the most skillful feedback. But it doesn't have to be hard. Now that you know this four-part formula, you can mix and match it to make it work
for any difficult conversation..

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