“Why are you looking bored all of a sudden?” The colleague asked. “Is there something wrong with the way am doing this hair?” She asked in return. The conversation caught my attention. I was the client in the salon. The hair dresser noticed I was getting curious. She turned to me and asked, “What do you think about the style so far.” “It looks perfect to me.” I responded. She had already asked that question a few minutes after starting to work on it.
Almost in a chorus, I and the colleague asked, “Is there a problem?” You did not hear what madam said?” She asked. We both stared blankly. An intern who was assisting her however responded, “I did, I also thought the client heard.” “What did she say”, The colleague asked, “she says that am not good in this style. She thinks that I should go see our senior colleague and learn from him. This is the second time she is saying this. The last time she said it, I took a photo of the work. I sent it to that senior hair dresser and he said it’s okay. I think madam does not like me. Everything I do is not up to her standard. Yet the clients are happy and keep coming back. She likes people who studied in her college. For me this is a passion I may not have the papers but I give it my best. Maybe I should just go back to my profession or just stay at home and work on freelance basis.”
“Did you ask her why she thinks it’s not good?” I asked. “No I didn’t, I was so annoyed especially because she said it in your presence. She should have pulled me aside or get a way of having someone else take up the task.” She continued. The pain was evident in her voice and her body language. The colleagues did their best to cheer her up. I reassured her that she was doing a good job. She however kept asking the same question over and over again, “What do you think about this style?” The feedback had clearly shattered her to the core.
Learning to receive feedback is a skill but learning how to give feedback is even a greater skill. Though feedback is meant to help us grow it rarely works mostly because it does not have the right impact on the person. Our brains function is to minimize danger and maximize reward to make us feel safe. The pain and rhetoric that we go through after receiving constructive or destructive feedback is the reality of the brain trying to protect us.
There are simple basics when it comes to giving feedback;
1. Avoid blaming or judging – the intention is to show the person the area of improvement not to blame them for their failures.
2. Be specific – Show evidence of what needs to be worked on. Telling someone they are not good does not help them. Pinpoint the exact area that they need to work on.
3. Let them be part of the problem solving – Most people are capable of navigating through their challenges. They just need a trigger and accountability. Incorporating their ideas leads to ownership.
4. Give them time – Do not drop your thoughts and take off. Allow the person time to process the feedback, ask questions and be open minded.
5. Be ready to take feedback as well – Drop your ego. You will also benefit from other people’s feedback. Readiness by all parties to receive feedback creates a culture of openness and continuous improvement.
Remember the basic rule in communication; It’s not what you say it’s how you say it. Part of the ‘how’ and in incorporating the points outlined above is to give a story. I do not mean you beat around the bush trying to sugarcoat the issue. I mean you give a well thought out factual feedback with the right context. This ensures you give clarity rather than leave the person with more questions.
Stories help the feedback process; In my example above;
Feedback given; You are not good at that style, you need to see our senior stylist and learn.
Feedback with a story; I was looking at the way you are doing that style. The setting was well done but the styling seemed not to fit the clients face. You could try to have some front curls move to the side to accentuate her oval face. See this image, what do you think? You can check with our senior hairdresser he has more images on facial shapes and styles.
Feedback dropped like a bombshell is a sign of ego or cowardice on the part of the giver. It can hurt people, lower their self-esteem and make them feel underappreciated. I could pick that from my hair dresser. As I left she muttered to the colleague, “I have been standing for twelve hours to make money for her (madam) but she thinks am not a professional!” When feedback is given without a story the brain makes up its own stories; like in this case;
• Is my work always substandard?
• Do clients hate my work?
• Do my colleagues think the same?
• Will I get fired?
Feedback based on real insight comes from a place of kindness not our own insecurities. When we wrap stories around feedback it has the potential to reduce the threat response and replace emotional reaction with learning.
“Feedback given well should not alienate the receiver of the feedback but should inspire them to perform better.”
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels