You’re listening to The Less Stressed Lawyer podcast, Episode 20. Today I’m teaching you all about how to give feedback that’s well received. You ready? Let’s go.
Welcome to The Less Stressed Lawyer, the only podcast that teaches you how to manage your mind so you can live a life with less stress and far more fulfillment. If you’re a lawyer who’s over the overwhelm and tired of trying to hustle your way to happiness, you’re in the right place. Now, here’s your host, lawyer turned life coach, Olivia Vizachero.
Hey there, how’s it going? I hope you’re doing so well. I’m so excited that this is Episode 20. I can’t believe that I’ve been talking to you guys for 20 different episodes. That’s just so neat to me. I know that we’ll be at 52, a whole year’s worth of podcast episodes, before we even know it.
Before we dive into Episode 20’s topic, I want to talk about two things really quick. First, we’re going to take a minute for a gratitude practice, because I have a lot to be grateful for right now. Over this past weekend, my mom had emergency pacemaker surgery, it totally came out of nowhere.
She went to a routine doctor’s appointment, and lo and behold, they sent her right to the ER. They were able to do the procedure that she ended up really needing, kind of out of nowhere. As I went through that whole process, which was pretty scary on the front end, I was really enamored and in awe of how incredible science is.
So, this week, I am practicing gratitude, for science and the advancements that we have, that make procedures like that kind of routine, even though they’re certainly not routine in my life or my mom’s life. Of course, they are routine, and they happen every single day. Those advancements really make so many incredible things possible. I’m grateful that they caught it. I’m grateful that she was able to have that done. And, I’m grateful that she is making a really incredible, impressive recovery.
So, that’s what I’m grateful for this week. I want you to take a second and pick something that you’re deeply grateful for. I don’t think we take enough time to stop ourselves and acknowledge what it is that we’re grateful for. My one-on-one coach, Jess Johnson, she makes me do this each time we meet. So, I’m going to ask you to do this right now. Because it’s something that I’ve really come to love when I see her every week, that I’m forced to pick something that I’m grateful for and to celebrate it.
I want you to pick something that you’re truly grateful for and celebrate it. Say it out loud; say, “I’m so grateful for…,” insert whatever it is you’re grateful for. Say it slowly. Really drop into that thought. Sit with it until you can place it in your body, until you feel that gratitude within you. Let that gratitude just warm you up. And then, just sit with that for a minute.
Why are you grateful for this thing? How does it impact your life? How does it improve your life? How does it benefit your life? Answer those questions, and just sit and enjoy that feeling. Sit with it, enjoy it, let it flood you. Really find that gratitude in your body. It’s so good.
I love just thinking about what you guys are grateful for. You know, I don’t get to hear what you’re saying out loud. But I’m sure it’s so many different things. And I just think that’s really neat. Alright, that’s the first thing. Just a little moment of gratitude. You can pause the podcast if you want to take a second to sit with it. And then, keep going.
Alright, number two, I want to highlight another amazing listener review. I absolutely love it when you guys leave me reviews letting me know what you think of the podcast. It’s just so awesome to read them. This week’s is from the Legal Guru, and he’s also a friend of mine. Maybe this seems like cheating, but I loved his review and I wanted to give him a shout out.
His name’s Beilal. He said, “How lucky was I to attend law school with Olivia and to be a part of her study group. For a decade now, Olivia has been a wealth of knowledge and guidance to those around her, contributing to and enriching the lives of several attorneys I know personally. I cannot understate how important this podcast is not only for attorneys, but for everyone.” So good. I love it. Beilal, thank you for such an amazing review.
I was the flowchart girl all through law school. For those of you who didn’t know me back then, I was the flowchart girl. We had the best study groups. I was in the evening program in law school and we just had a really tight knit group. We were really supportive of one another. We didn’t have any gunners. We were just really collaborative. It was so much fun. So, thank you to Beilal for the amazing review.
If you’re loving the podcast, I want you to do me a favor. Number one, if you haven’t subscribed already, go do that right now. Number two, please leave me a rating and review, and let me know what you think. Let me know what you’re loving. Let me know what you want to hear. I would love to hear from you. Maybe I will shout you out on a future podcast, as well.
And number three, share this episode with a friend. If you know a lawyer that you think might benefit from listening to this content, shoot it to ‘em, send it on over a text or an email. But don’t hoard the knowledge, share the wealth.
Okay, now that those two business items are out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff. This is sort of a two-part episode. In the last episode, I talked about accepting feedback without getting defensive. I taught you the exact steps to follow to do that. Today we’re talking about the flip side, we’re talking about giving feedback. And then in parentheses, I want you to think about giving feedback that’s well received.
Now, based on the discussion that I had with you in that last episode, where I explained that the feedback that you receive is entirely neutral, in and of itself. It’s just a circumstance, it’s just words, they don’t cause your feelings until you think thoughts about them. I also explained that it’s our jobs, to control and curate our thoughts about the feedback that we receive.
Based on all of that, you might think that I would be telling you not to worry about how you give feedback, and that it’s just the other person’s obligation to manage their minds around whatever you say, and however you say it. And, while I do believe that it’s everyone’s individual responsibility to manage their emotional experience, that they have around whatever circumstances they encounter, let’s be honest, for just a second, not everyone’s actually going to do that. Right?
Not everyone is doing that. Not everyone that you know, is managing their minds and listening to podcasts like this. They’re probably not all aware that their thoughts are what caused their feelings. They probably blame the circumstances, most people going through the world operate that way. They think the circumstances they encounter, so the words that you say to them, are what directly cause how they feel.
In light of that, in light of human brains operating the way human brains always do; blaming circumstances for feelings, in light of those truths, it probably behooves you to give some thought to how your feedback is going to be received. And, to implement some of the best practices that I’m about to teach you in this episode, so that you can really increase the likelihood that the feedback that you give other people is received as well as it can be.
Again, it’s everyone’s own individual obligation and responsibility to control their emotional experience. I am not wavering on that at all. But what I am saying, is that when we get down to brass tacks, chances are not everyone’s doing that effectively.
We want to make sure we do everything in our ability to give feedback in, I don’t love this word, but the most constructive way possible. And, make sure that we do everything we can so that our feedback is well received, so it can be implemented and utilized in the most effective manner.
Now, there’s a caveat here, no matter how hard you try, and this might seem a little contradictory to what I just said, no matter how hard you try, you ultimately cannot control another person’s reaction to your actions, to what you say, or what you do. They’re in complete control of the reaction.
You can make the best attempt and undergo the best efforts to ensure that your feedback is well received, and they can still choose not to receive it. Well, that’s in their control, that’s in their power, that’s in their freewill. They still get to control their emotional response and how they act in response to receiving feedback.
These are some best practices that you can follow to make it more likely that the feedback is received well. Okay, step one, or best practice number one, is that you need to check in with yourself before you give the feedback. Ask yourself; how am I feeling in this moment? You want to make sure you find the one-word emotion that you’re experiencing.
If it’s negative, you don’t want to communicate feedback from that place. So, if you’re feeling frustrated, or annoyed, or exasperated, or disappointed, you’re not going to give feedback in the most productive, constructive way. So, you want to find the feeling.
And then, you want to find the thought that you’re thinking, that’s causing you to feel that emotion; what’s the thought? Identify it. It’s probably going to be a judgment of the other person, of what they did, of maybe what they didn’t do. Find that thought.
Chances are, it might even be a ‘should’ thought, which I’ve talked about in previous episodes. if it’s a ‘should’ thought, or another negative thought, I want you to ask yourself; can I change it? Can I replace this negative thought that’s causing this negative feeling, with a more productive thought? With maybe, a little bit more of a neutral thought? I love to think thoughts like: I wonder. I wonder why this person did it this way? I wonder what happened that got us to this current situation?
I also love to think ‘of course’ thoughts. I mentioned both of these tactics in the last episode. “Of course, this happened.” Maybe someone acted on brand and in conformity with how they always act. If they did, you really shouldn’t be all that surprised that you’re being confronted with the situation that you’re being confronted with, in that moment. So, can you get to an ‘I wonder’ thought? Can you get to an ‘of course’ thought?
I also just love to think that people are generally doing the best that they can, under the given circumstances. Maybe that gets you to a place where you feel a little bit of compassion, instead of those more negative emotions that I mentioned a moment ago.
Whatever the case is, you want to find the thought and find that feeling. And then, see if you can switch it out to get to a place where you’re thinking something a little bit more neutral, and feeling more neutral. You want to feel, maybe, understanding, or accepting, or curious, or motivated, or committed, any of those emotions will really serve you as you go about giving feedback.
Alright, step number two, you want to ask yourself some questions. First question I want you to ask yourself is what biases are you bringing with you into this situation? I’ve talked in the podcast before, about the labels that we assign other people and the judgments we make, and how those labels and judgments taint all of our encounters with the people in our lives.
So, if you have a really negative story that you’re telling yourself about the person that you’re about to give feedback to, it’s probably tainting the situation. What are your judgments of them? What do you think of them? Find the bias that you may be bringing with you into that situation. And, can you put a pin in it? Can you table it?
Ask yourself; how would you show up in this moment? How would you deliver the feedback? Or, would you even deliver the feedback, if you didn’t have that negative judgment about them? I also want you to ask yourself; do I have enough information here? Am I making any assumptions, maybe about what their motives are? What drove them to take whatever action they did or to not take a certain action? What information might you need?
Identify questions that you may want to ask to fill in the blanks. Maybe, before you go give the feedback. You also want to ask yourself; what result do I want to create in this encounter, in this exchange? Think about both the short-term and the long-term result that you want to create. And that’s going to inform both how you give the feedback, maybe what feedback you give, it’s going to be really instructive here.
Now, once you get clear on the result that you want to create, we’re going to work backwards. That’s the next step. Let’s call it step number three. I want you to decide on what you want to say when you communicate the feedback. Get really clear on exactly what you want to communicate.
Then once you’ve figured out the words that you want to say, I want you to find your ‘why’. Ask yourself; why do I want to say this? I want you to be brutally honest here. And then decide, do you like that reason? Does that reason, and does what you want to say, support your desired result? Or, are these things in conflict? Is what you want to say to the person really unlikely to lead you to creating the desired result?
Now this next step, step four, is pretty nuanced, but it’s really important. I want you to think about how the feedback, that you’ve decided upon in the previous step, I want you to think about how it’s likely to be received. And listen, I get it, we’re not mind reader’s. We don’t know for certain. But you are a human being, and you know what it’s like to operate in the world.
I’ve also talked to you a great deal about people’s likely response patterns. I want you to think about how is the person likely to feel when they receive that feedback? And, what will that feeling, that they’re feeling, drive them to do? What action will drive them to take? What results will it ultimately produce? I want you to remember; negative feelings drive people to take negative action, or no action. And negative action, or no action, is going to produce a negative result.
We can’t shame someone into improving; it just doesn’t work like that. So, if you ask yourself, you’ve decided upon saying whatever you’re going to say, and when you ask yourself; how is this person likely to receive this message?
If you think they’re going to receive it negatively, and they’re going to feel really negative emotions as a result, because they’re thinking really negatively about the feedback, or they’re thinking really negatively about themselves, they’re probably going to take a negative action, or no action. And, it’s not going to create the desired result that you want to create.
I get that this is really contrary to what a lot of us were taught, right? We were taught that you just need to light a fire under someone’s ass. And normally what we mean by that is, say something negative to them, kind of give them a talking to, a lecture, give them some “constructive criticism”, which really is just negative feedback. And they’ll course correct, they’ll do better.
But that’s not how human beings work. Right? A negative feeling’s going to drive negative action or no action. So, you want to think about; how do you want the person to feel? Maybe you want them to feel encouraged or motivated. What would they need to think about the feedback they receive, in order to feel motivated and encouraged? What would the feedback need to look like, for it to be easy for them to think those types of thoughts about the feedback they’re receiving? Really work through that.
They need to, maybe, think that this person has my back. This person is looking out for me. They’ve got my best interests at heart. They want to help me improve. They’re in this with me. They’re committed. Thoughts like that. They might need to think; it’s okay that I made a mistake. I’m learning. It’s okay for me to fumble sometimes. This isn’t the end of the world.
Think about how would you have to structure the feedback, to make it easy for people to think those types of thoughts? Instead of, really negative thoughts, like I’m a failure. I’m dropping the ball. Why can’t I figure this out? I should be further along. I shouldn’t be struggling with this. I’m pathetic. I’m inadequate.
If they’re likely to think those thoughts, based on the feedback that they receive from you, it’s not going to go well from there. They might shut down, they might procrastinate, they might withdraw, they might get defensive, that doesn’t lead to anything good. It’s definitely not the result you’re probably hoping to create by giving them that feedback.
Once you’ve identified what you want to say to them, go through it: Ask yourself; how are they likely to receive this? What are they most likely to think when they hear this from me, or read this from me? How ever you communicate the feedback. How are they most likely to feel as a result of thinking those thoughts? And then, based on that feeling, what are they most likely to do or not do? And, what result is that going to produce?
If you don’t like your answers to those questions, you want to go back to the drawing board and come up with a different way to communicate that feedback, or a different way to phrase that feedback altogether.
Once you’ve gone through all of that, then you’re going to finally start the conversation, with the person that you’re giving feedback to, whether that is an in-person conversation, over the phone, via email, whatever; you’re going to start the conversation. And if we’re being really honest, I work with a ton of people who have a lot of mind drama about emails.
I will probably do a whole episode on how emails have no tone, they’re neutral. And, we just think thoughts about them. But with that being said, it’s one of the points that I make that people argue with me about the most. So, maybe email’s not the best for giving negative feedback, right? Maybe we want to have that conversation in person or over the phone, that might help you out.
So, start the conversation. You’re going to start, and keep in mind those questions that you identified earlier that you may want to ask. Do you need more information? Do you want to know more about what happened, how you got to this point? Go ahead and ask all of those questions that you identified, and gather that additional information that may be relevant to the situation.
Once you’ve gathered that additional information, I want you to then decide if feedback still makes sense. Okay, maybe it will, maybe it won’t. You might have learned something new, and it put it in a completely different context, and you’re like, “I totally understand what happened,” and there’s no need to deliver that negative feedback.
But if you still feel as though it’s necessary to deliver that feedback, here’s what I want you to do next, this part is vital. I want you to get consent. Giving feedback that wasn’t consented to, that a person didn’t have an opportunity to opt into receiving, is a recipe for disaster; it’s going to feel like a punch to the gut, probably.
They weren’t expecting it, they didn’t have an opportunity to prepare themselves. You want to make sure you get consent and give people an opportunity to opt in to receiving whatever your comments are.
Also, they may not want the feedback. Sometimes, that happens. So, if they tell you ‘no’; they don’t want the feedback, they don’t want to hear your opinion, they don’t want to hear what you have to say, I want you to take a deep breath and just accept and honor their answer. Not everyone wants to know your two cents, even if you’re trying to be helpful.
You know, I work with a lot of people on self-confidence issues. And even though you may have really great intentions, you’re trying to help them, the negative feedback that they receive may be so harmful to their self-concept and to their self-confidence, that it may not do them any good.
It may cause them to have more self-doubt, to second guess themselves, to really feel embarrassed or insecure, unqualified. So, let people be the best judges of whether or not they are in a best position to receive feedback in the first place.
Now, if you get consent, you ask the person, “Hey, you know, are you interested in my thoughts?” Or, “I have some feedback for you, are you open to getting it?” And they opt in, make sure you don’t give the feedback before you actually get an answer from them. Don’t ask and then just go ahead and give it, that’s still consensual. It’s uninvited behavior until the person gives you an affirmative ‘yes’, and opts in.
Once you get consent from the person, to give them your two cents, then you can go ahead and give them the feedback. Again, step number one was check-in with yourself. Make sure you’re feeling a feeling that’s going to drive you to give that feedback in a way that serves you, and supports the result that you want to create.
Once you’re taking action from that emotion, you’ve cultivated it, go ahead and give that feedback. You’re in that positive energy, that positive feeling, take action and deliver the feedback from that space. And then, what I want you to do, I want you to get curious.
That’s one of my favorite emotions and one of my favorite activities; operating from curiosity instead of from judgment. Get curious with the person, and ask questions to understand how you or they reached the current result. Figure out the actual problem, you have to be curious with this.
You actually have to care what the underlying problem is. If you don’t care, it’s going to come across… If you’re like, “I don’t want to deal with this, I just want you to do better,” you’re probably not going to actually solve anything. So, you do, probably want to care and make it your business to find out what the actual underlying problem is.
Identify that problem, and I want you to be as specific as possible. If you were giving feedback to someone about their timeliness or their ability to follow through and hit an internal deadline, maybe someone you’re working with is struggling with that.
A lot of people will just turn around and say, “You know this isn’t working. You’re not measuring up. You’re not hitting internal deadlines, do better.” That’s not the best way to go about giving feedback here. Number one, it’s probably quite likely that the person who is hearing that is going to think really negative thoughts about themselves, once they hear that.
They’re going to feel discouraged and maybe embarrassed; probably isn’t going to lead to anything good. They’re not going to speak up. They’re not going to explain why they’re struggling with whatever it is they’re struggling with. They might withdraw. They might procrastinate some more. Again, none of that is going to produce the result you want to create.
So, instead of giving feedback like that, you might want to get into a place where you feel curious, or understanding, or accepting. And then, from there, ask questions. Deliver the feedback that you want them to improve, and they’re missing the mark. But then, get curious and figure out why they’re missing the mark. What’s the underlying problem here? Why are they struggling with hitting internal deadlines? Ask them to explain it to you.
If they struggle, try brainstorming with them: Is it because they’re underestimating how long assignments are going to take them? Why are they not communicating? How are they feeling? Are they uncomfortable communicating that they might miss an internal deadline? Are they just underestimating how long everything’s going to take?
Or, are they people pleasing and taking things on, or reshuffling their schedule, and the thing that they’re late on just keeps getting pushed to the back of their to-do list? Maybe that’s what’s going on because they’re unwilling to say ‘no’ and unwilling to feel guilty. You want to figure out whatever the underlying problem is because there’s going to be a different solution, depending on which specific problem you’re encountering.
Once you’ve identified that problem, the last step here, for giving feedback is to get a game plan with the person. I want you and them to decide what specifically, will change, what you guys will do differently in order to remedy the situation going forward. Everyone should be clear on exactly what you’ll do differently, in order to create the result you ultimately want to create, instead of the result that you’re currently dealing with.
Get that game plan; make sure everyone’s on the same page. And that way, your feedback is really useful and productive. You’ve given it, it was consensual, it came from a really good place energetically, and it’s specific enough and solution oriented to actually remedy the underlying issue, to course correct and get you where you ultimately want to go.
If you follow these steps, again, it’s not going to guarantee that every time you give negative feedback, it’s going to be well-received, but it is much more likely to be taken that way, if you follow these best practices. I wish you the best of luck in communicating any negative feedback, you have to communicate.
That’s what I have for you this week. I will talk to you guys in the next episode. Have a beautiful week.
Thanks for listening to The Less Stressed Lawyer podcast. If you want more info about Olivia Vizachero or the show’s notes and resources from today’s episode, visit www.TheLessStressedLawyer.com.