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ways in which feedback is with meetings

Develop your feedback skills by using these few rules, and you’ll soon find that you’re much more effective.

  1. Feedback should be about behaviour not personality

The first, and probably the most important rule of feedback is to remember that you are making no comment on what type of person they are, or what they believe or value. You are only commenting on how they behaved. Do not be tempted to discuss aspects of personality, intelligence or anything else. Only behaviour.

  1. Feedback should describe the effect of the person’s behaviour on you

After all, you do not know the effect on anyone or anything else. You only know how it made you feel or what you thought. Presenting feedback as your opinion makes it much easier for the recipient to hear and accept it, even if you are giving negative feedback. After all, they have no control over how you felt, any more than you have any control over their intention. This approach is a blame-free one, which is therefore much more acceptable.

  1. Feedback should be as specific as possible

Especially when things are not going well, we all know that it’s tempting to start from the point of view of ‘everything you do is rubbish’, but don’t. Think about specific occasions, and specific behaviour, and point to exactly what the person did, and exactly how it made you feel. The more specific the better, as it is much easier to hear about a specific occasion than about ‘all the time’!

  1. Feedback should be timely

It’s no good telling someone about something that offended or pleased you six months later. Feedback needs to be timely, which means while everyone can still remember what happened. If you have feedback to give, then just get on and give it. That doesn’t mean without thought. You still need to think about what you’re going to say and how.

  1. Pick your moment

There are times when people are feeling open to feedback and times when they aren’t. Have a look at our page on emotional awareness and work on your social awareness, to help you develop your awareness of the emotions and feelings of others. This will help you to pick a suitable moment. For example, an angry person won’t want to accept feedback, even given skilfully. Wait until they’ve calmed down a bit.

Nine practical ways to improve verbal communication

Verbal communication skills are essential skills in today’s business environment.

Most of us will have participated in formal communication skills training such as ‘Presentation Skills’ or ‘Business Development Skills’ courses.Many courses cover the formal, planned and group situations we often face. But they rarely cover our regular, informal ones, such as discussions, meetings, workshops, telephone calls and conversations.

The following tips are a starting point to help you think about how you can improve your verbal communications skills, whether in planned or unplanned situations:

1. Read more – Simply increasing what you read (business texts, novels, newspapers etc) can improve your vocabulary, help you express ideas clearly and eliminate weaknesses in your language skills.

2. Think about the words – Too many words will bore your listener, take up too much time and result in you losing credibility. There is no need to waffle! Remember not to use words that people don’t understand (they may not even tell you that they don’t understand what you are saying), as you may appear intimidating and make them feel inferior.

3. Prepare (if you can) – You would spend time planning what you would say if you were writing. You would also think about how to make it accessible to as many readers as possible. If you know of an approaching situation, take time out to think about the questions you may be asked and what answers you may need to give. If you are delivering a presentation, you should be prepared for awkward questions and situations where you may need to explain something in a different way.

4. Listen and be interested – Listening more and talking less means you will understand and bring your listener into the conversation. This helps them to trust you and make them feel that you really understand their needs. When they talk, be interested and show your interest. This will improve the rapport you are trying to build. Using note-taking skills like Mind Mappingcan help you to take more effective and memorable notes.

5. Be aware of non-verbal communication traps – The impact of the words you say is only a small element of the communication you are giving. You should make sure that your words, their tone, the gestures you make, facial expressions and body language you use, are all relevant to your conversation.

6. Honesty is the best policy – Promising something that is not possible will break down any trust that you have developed. Telling someone that you “don’t know – but can find out” is more positive than just trying to give an answer you hope is effective.

7. Show and seek some understanding – Look for understanding from your audience. It’s easier to back track at certain points in your conversation than revisit the whole conversation again – or you risk getting the wrong results because your audience did not understand! You can use this when delivering or receiving a message. Occasional summaries and confirmation questions can be extremely useful.

8. Think about perspectives – Think about what you are saying from the other person’s perspective. Just because you understand what you mean, it doesn’t mean that they will.

9 Develop your skills – There are a number of techniques you can learn to help improve your verbal communication skills.

Ways to handle disagreements effectively

#1: Make sure there really IS a disagreement

Have you ever witnessed a “violent agreement”? It can actually be funny, as long as other people, rather than you, are involved. For example:

      A says, on Monday, “The new release won’t be available for at least two days.”

 

      B says, “That’s ridiculous! We won’t have it until Thursday!”

 

    There’s no disagreement here, right? Most likely, B was expecting to hear a specific day, rather than an interval of days. In other words, B might not have been listening carefully. In this case, A could say, “Wait a minute, we’re saying the same thing. Thursday is more than two days from Monday.”

A variation of the violent agreement is the “violent non-disagreement.” For example:

      A says, “Babe Ruth played for the Yankees.”

 

      B says, “Baloney; he played for the Red Sox.”

 

    Here, B’s mistake is thinking that playing for the Yankees and playing for the Red Sox are mutually exclusive. However, as most people know, Babe Ruth actually played for both teams.

Other false conflicts could involve time (different time zones), distances (miles vs. kilometers), or release levels (different/additional functions, depending on the release).

I could cite other examples, but you get the point. Matters that appear to conflict might not conflict when you look more closely. Listen carefully to the other person and make sure there really is a difference.

#2: Separate yourself from your position

In his classic work The Psychology of Computer Programming, Gerald Weinberg describes the concept of “egoless programming.” Under this concept, a team of technical programmers, including the author of a program, reviews that program, checking for errors. The less defensive the programmer feels about the code, the more productive the review process will be. In other words, the process goes more smoothly if the programmer separates himself or herself from the program and doesn’t view discovered errors as a personal attack.

In the same way, actors, when interviewed about a role they play, generally refer to their own character in the third person. When talking about his character, Benjamin Martin in The Patriot, for example [SPOILERS AHEAD], Mel Gibson would more likely say, “Gabriel’s death had a big impact on Benjamin” rather than “Gabriel’s death had a big impact on me.” Similarly, he would more likely say, “Benjamin Martin is a man who’s trying to escape his past,” rather than “I am a man trying to escape my past.”

Try to adopt this view of disagreements. If we involve ourselves personally with our positions, we will have a harder time being objective about them. That lack of objectivity can prolong a disagreement needlessly. Try to view your position not as “your” position, but merely “a” position. In the same way, if you have an issue with someone else’s position, make clear that your concern is with the issue, not with the person, if that’s the case.

#3: Maintain professionalism

We’ve all heard the old saying about “disagreeing without being disagreeable” and that “honey attracts flies better than vinegar.” I don’t know why I would want to attract flies, but that’s a different matter. In any event, treating people with respect — even those with whom you disagree — can earn you respect in return and gives your position more credibility.

#4: Listen

The violent agreement involving the three-day delay could have been avoided had person B been listening more carefully. Listen to people completely, if you can, before responding. If you have to interrupt, for example, because the other person is being long-winded, try to summarize your understanding first. People sometimes express themselves differently than you expect. If you fail to listen, you might find yourself responding not to the other person’s actual position, but only to what you thought the other person’s position was.

#5: Recognize and avoid “straw man” arguments

This point carries over from the previous one. It’s easy to argue against a position that no one has. Attacking a position that isn’t really the one a person holds is called a “straw man” argument because, like a straw man, it’s easily knocked down.

If you fail to listen carefully, you may find yourself wasting time reacting to such a position rather than to someone’s actual position. It’s bad enough to attack a straw man by accident; it’s ethically questionable if you do it deliberately. Similarly, make sure others really do understand your own position.

#6: Agree to disagree

Sometimes, no matter how much discussion occurs, you’re unable to agree on one particular point. In some cases, that single disagreement prevents further discussion. However, other times, you might be able to switch to other topics. If so, it’s best to “agree to disagree” on the point of contention and move on to the other areas. Maybe later you can return to the disagreement and work through it. But try to make progress in spite of the issues about this one thing.

#7: Watch what you say

Once spoken, words can never be taken back. There’s no “untalk” feature corresponding to an e-mail “unsend.” Similarly, when a stone enters a pond, it sends out ripples that go only outward. As the saying goes, “A harsh word stirs up anger.”

Your mother’s advice to count to three (mine told me to count to 10, in fact) before answering holds just as true now as when you were small. In particular, and in view of the earlier advice to separate person from issue, be careful about overusing the words “you” or “your” or similar terms. Doing so blurs the line between person and issue and can make the other person feel defensive or accused.

A good technique is to “play Columbo,” a reference to the old television series about a detective with that name. Peter Falk, who played the role, came across as an idiot who always needed someone to explain things to him. In the same way, if you have a disagreement or concern, consider expressing it via a question rather than via a statement. Does the other person’s position lead to a problem? Ask questions so that in answering them, the other person realizes the issue as well. Just don’t overdo this technique or it will sound contrived and insincere.

#8: Use a lower voice

Just as “A harsh word stirs up anger,” so too does “A soft answer [turn] away wrath.” If you lower your voice when speaking, you accomplish three things. First, you reduce any tension that might exist. Second, you force the other person to listen to you. Third, because of its unexpected nature, lowering your voice can gain you a psychological advantage in the discussion.

#9: Try to see the other person’s point of view

In a previous blog entry, I talked about the importance of seeing the other person’s point of view when explaining a technical concept. That same principle applies with respect to disagreements. The more you understand someone’s position, the more you may understand their concerns — and the more likely you can resolve the disagreement. In fact, before responding with your own position, consider paraphrasing the other person’s position and concerns first. Doing so sends a powerful message. Even more important, emphasize first those matters upon which you and the other person agree.

#10: When the disagreement is resolved, put it behind you

We all know the saying about “water under the bridge.” Once a matter is settled, don’t keep a record of wrongs. Let it go. Dwelling on past differences seldom leads to productive results and can lead to bitterness and bad feelings. Look back only to learn from what happened, so that you can avoid similar mistakes (if any) in the future.