Do you find feedback a friend or a foe?

“Can I give you some feedback please?”
What’s it like for you when someone unexpectedly offers you feedback? How do you react?

Intellectually most of us know that feedback should be helpful, that we should treat it as a friend. The problem is, particularly if we have not gone out and invited it, feedback can feel like a foe. When it is offered, we don’t know what the other person is going to say. We don’t know what our reaction might be. Maybe from ancient times, we experience feedback as a threat. How to take the fear out of feedback is covered in this Forbes article here:

Let’s now come back to you.

How to Improve your Listening Skills to be a better Leader

How do you personally react when someone offers your feedback?

Here are some common choices:

Fight – you defend yourself. You argue back, discount or deny the feedback, justifying your own position.

Fright – you avoid. You decline the offer of feedback. Perhaps you say to the other person “it’s not quite the right moment”, or “can we defer the conversation to another time”. Then, funnily enough, it never is quite the right time.

Appease – you defer and “suck up” towards the other person. You tell them you are incredibly grateful for the feedback. Outwardly you agree with them, although your inner world have a different story of events.

Freeze – everything suddenly goes very still within you, as if in slow motion. You hear the feedback but afterwards you can’t remember what was said, only how it made you feel.

Would you like a different, more effective option to be available to you?

When you were a child, you may remember having had a toy with a heavy weight low down in its centre. However hard you pushed the toy over, it stood back up again straight away.

This ability to come back to centre is the alternative we are offering you here. By coming back to centre you can hear the feedback productively.

We offer you three strategies posed as questions to help you get back to centre and back in charge:

Can you make the feedback feel optional?

Or can you adopt a mindset that it is. If you can, you are more likely to feel on the front foot and able to see the parts of the feedback useful to you.

 

Can you influence how (or where) the feedback is given?

For example, can you ask to talk in a more private place? The more assertive you are, the more likely it will be that you are calm and receive feedback as an equal in the relationship.

The difference between mentoring and coaching
Mentor your team for top productivity
Does your gut tell you their intention is genuinely to help you?

Is the feedback truly to help you, or is it something the other person wants and needs to get off their chest? This distinction can really help you engage with (or dismiss) what they have to say.

These three strategies can help you feel on the front foot when you are unexpectedly offered feedback, and help you use it in a positive way.

If you would like additional information about how to engage with feedback, you may find the book “Thanks for the Feedback” by authors Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen of help. Their video is here:

And if you want to be more proactive, increasing your self awareness from asking for feedback, there are some tips in this blog here:

 

4 Cross-Cultural Communication Mistakes to Avoid

We are increasingly working in a globalised world with colleagues, clients and suppliers from different countries. According to research from the law firm Baker McKenzie, Chinese companies invested 3.84 billion pounds in the UK in 2018. Furthermore, British companies are increasingly competing with global companies for contracts and employees are working as part of global teams with numerous different nationalities.

Chinese market

Avoid making damaging communication mistakesThis article will explore five cross-cultural mistakes to avoid when working with people from other cultures:

1) Not understanding different communication styles

In different countries people communicate in different ways. For example generally German and Dutch people are very direct in their communication style – what they say is what they mean. On the other hand, Japanese people often communicate in an indirect manner. This means that you will frequently have to read between the lines if you want to understand their meaning.

Furthermore, in some countries simple words such as “yes” can have different meanings. In most western countries when people reply “yes” it usually means they understand what was said and agree to do something. On the other hand, in several Asian cultures when someone uses the word “yes” it simply confirms that someone is listening to you. Someone might say “yes” and then later on say “no”, or you might find out that they didn’t understand what you said.

In this case it is important to double check if the other person understands your point by looking at their facial expressions, asking them to summarise what you said or sending them a summary of what was agreed in writing.

2) Comparing other cultures to your own

Some expatriates working overseas sometimes struggle to get used to different cultural habits. For example, this could be French people kissing on the cheeks in greeting or Japanese bowing. If you keep comparing a different culture with your own in a negative way you might offend people from that culture, and it could lead to conflict. This can affect your ability to build strong relationships.

3) Being negative or critical

 Some people complain a lot about working with clients or colleagues from other cultures. If you are negative about other nationalities or cultures and criticise the way they behave, this will have a very negative impact on your ability to work together.

4) Not adapting to the other culture

 Some expatriates work in other countries but do not adapt at all to the local culture. They live in a compound with other expatriates, they don’t eat the local food and they don’t mix with the local people. These same people often do not adapt their style of communication and way of conducting business, then are surprised when they struggle to be successful.

When working with clients or colleagues from another culture it is important to read up on the cultural differences and common cross-cultural misunderstandings. This could be something as simple as giving and receiving a business card with two hands in China.

Cross-cultural differences are important to consider when working with clients and colleagues from other countries to ensure your staff work efficiently and productively. If you would like to improve the ability of your staff to work more effectively with clients or colleagues from other cultures, read about our Cross-Cultural Communication Training.