Why do you feel there is a bowling ball in your gut when you have to offer someone feedback?
Why do you hide behind the formality and rigor of the rules and forms when someone fails to perform?
As much as there is a discipline to the art of difficult conversation, there’s a mindset that precedes it.
Logically we know that when things are communicated well, improvement happens, knowledge increases, change occurs and relationships strengthen.
Many consider themselves great communicators and, granted, you likely have natural talent. However natural talent, left un-nurtured, can become stale if not outright atrophied.
Great athletes and musicians and artists who practice their discipline to improve skill, also recognize the power of mindset.
Let’s start there.
Why do you struggle? Perhaps the answer lies in one of three mindsets.
1) You lack empathy
- Factual and logical are cornerstones to great communication. When you fail to weave in understanding and empathy for emotions and how others think, you may become so focused on the task at hand that you fail to connect.
- Disconnected communication is the root of many a problem.
- Take a walk in someone’s shoes, consider the facts, honor your own emotions and then move forward.
2) You have been socialized to be polite
- Think of the little child who has been told by their well-meaning parents to never lie and when confronting a slightly overweight Mrs. Smith in the grocery store, follow the rules and doesn’t lie when pointing out her physical condition. “Mommy, why is Mrs. Smith so fat?” asks the innocent child. It’s his truthful observation. The flustered and embarrassed mother tells the little child to “not be impolite….you shouldn’t say that….” Mixed message about truth, fact and being polite.
- How about the adult you, conditioned to not be impolite or hurt people’s feelings, who now has to deliver some tough performance feedback? You get that childhood mixed message and your present day message comes out weak, unclear and apologetic.
- The mindset shift will take some time. New thought is that the truth, told with compassion and neutral fact, will truly set you free (if you are willing to hear it!).
3) You want others to like you, so you are unwilling to rock the boat
- This is the most self-justified mindset of all. Of course you want people to like you and regard you well. Depending upon your level of commitment to impression management, having a direct and truthful conversation with someone may be elusive to you.
- You may find yourself overusing the “sandwich technique”. With so many compliments or “can-do’s” surrounding the meat of the feedback, the person never truly knows what you want or need from him.
- Take a deep breath and re-frame the mindset. Trust and respect are a more powerful gift than being liked. You can like any goof at a party – he makes you feel good – but he’s still a goof. You trust and respect people who have your back and are willing to move through their discomfort to support you to be the best you can be.
These mindset traps prevent you from suspending judgments and assumptions. They prevent you from getting to a neutral place to see what there is to see. They prevent you from understanding the real emotions that are present, and not just the safe ones.
Open up the door to presence, authenticity which then opens up the door to finding, living and spreading trust and inspiration.
Mindset shifts are like muscle shifts. You don’t bench 250 in a day. You practice until you become better. You celebrate the small wins. You forgive your mistakes. Each and every day,
- look for opportunities to tell the truth with compassion
- find ways to say what you need to say in less words
- observe the emotional feeling you get from another without needing to soothe it
- correct your mindset setbacks as soon as you notice them
With practice, you will create safety for you and for others. This safety is surrounded in trust and respect and provides a space for people to grow.