Here’s a good one from the client question vault:

How do you react to an individual who won’t accept or receive your feedback?

dreamstimefree_231971There is nothing more frustrating than a person who greets your well-intended feedback with defensiveness, rebuff or denial.

True feedback, offered in the spirit of improvement, is not easy to give – especially if you are a conscious leader. You need to be aware of your own opinions and judgments and you need to be willing to obtain all sides of a story or situation before proceeding. Even then, the person on the receiving end may discount what you are offering. The trick is to not take it personally and move into a neutral position as swiftly as possible.

You are offering the gift of feedback but you cannot make the other person open your gift. You can, however, take some steps that will make you more effective.

Here are 7 tips that will make you feedback-ready when dealing with defensive people:

1. With respect and compassion, acknowledge the fact that you perceive defensiveness from the other person and ask what would make it easier for them to receive feedback.

2. Check your opinion at the door and speak from fact and behavioral observation.

3. If the feedback is mission critical, make sure the other person understands the impact of the behavior or situation and the potential consequences if it is left unchanged.

4. Create emotional safety before launching into feedback by beginning the conversation with a personal connection, offering a positive opening, or simply acknowledging the fact that feedback is tough to give and to receive.

5. Be aware of your own emotional triggers or personal biases that might affect how you offer feedback.

6. Work with your own discomfort about offering feedback. The other person will pick up on your discomfort, not feel safe in the conversation and the result may be defensiveness.

7. If you keep banging your head against the same wall expecting different results, don’t offer the feedback unless point three above is applicable.

The only way to offer great feedback is to practice. In practice a person makes mistakes. Use these “errors” as course corrections to improve. With your continued improvement over time, even the most defensive of people will be more open to your feedback.

Mary Pat Knight, CEO of Leaders Inspired, is a Transformation Strategist, Speaker, Facilitator, and Coach committed to leadership and emotional intelligence in the workplace. She is known for cutting through corporate drama to create laser focus for powerful business and personal results for her clients. 

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