When Giving Critical Feedback, Focus on Your Nonverbal Cues

When Giving Critical Feedback, Focus on Your Nonverbal Cues
This week’s Fierce resource was originally published by Harvard Business Review and shares tips for focusing on nonverbal cues and body language when having feedback conversations.

One of the most difficult things to do, from novice managers to tenured leaders, is give feedback. Especially when the feedback is critical and not easy to deliver. There is always a balancing act between delivering honest and open feedback and not discouraging the employee, causing them to retreat further inward.

The ability to give this feedback successfully starts with the culture of the workplace. If employees are engaged and part of an inclusive environment where their voice is heard, chances are they are more likely to respond well to feedback.

Per Emma Seppala, Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion, using a positive, open, and supportive style of feedback where employees feel safe can lead to incredible outcomes.

“Leaders and managers in particular influence their employee’s well-being more than they even know. A 3,000-person study found that a leader’s behavior and personality even influence their employees’ heart health. It’s no wonder that employees prefer higher happiness at work to higher pay.”

Some of the nonverbal cues that can make or break a manager’s ability to deliver feedback in an effective way include:

1. Facial expression. Humans internally register what another person is feeling by experiencing it in our own bodies, thus when someone smiles, we smile. When someone frowns, we frown. We pick up on these emotions so much that we can tell if someone is smiling even if we cannot see them – so same goes for delivering feedback over the phone.

2. Attention. It is hard to deliver honest feedback and expect behavior change if you are looking at your email inbox, the clock, or something shiny outside. The person you are talking to can easily tell if your mind is wandering and if you are not fully present, and it is not fair to assume that the person you are giving feedback to is fully present.

Read the other four nonverbal cues and the entire article here.

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