Can I Give You Some Feedback?

You probably cringed when you read the subject of this Tip. In fact, neuroscientists have found, saying this to someone triggers the same threat response in their brain as hearing footsteps walking up behind them in a dark street. Yet, if you work in the franchising sector, you will know that feedback between franchisees and franchisors is an essential part of the job. I’m not just referring to field managers giving franchisees feedback about brand standards. It is not uncommon for franchisees to also deliver some tough messages to their franchisor team. An important opportunity for us all then, if we are to grow professionally and personally, is to learn how to give and receive feedback.

Giving tough messages

Imagine saying to someone, “Because I am smarter than you, I am now going to tell you what to do.” Or how about, “Because you upset me, I am going to now really upset you!” These are the underlying messages from “Can I give you some feedback?” It sounds like a question but it is really a statement.

If we want our feedback to land on fertile ground, rather than deaf ears, we need to first ask for permission. And we need to do this in a way that gives the other person a feeling of control and respect. Our tone of voice is particularly important. Rather than shy away from giving feedback we just need to focus a little more on the process. Psychologists have found that people prefer to receive negative feedback if this is delivered in a positive, sincere and helpful way, than receiving positive feedback delivered in a glib or insincere way. For instance we might say, “I have some thoughts that might be helpful with this issue. Would you be interested in hearing these?”

Being a bit tentative also helps, as others are more likely to feel you are talking with them rather than down to them. I often hear the best feedback prefaced with statements such as “This may sound obvious, but…” or “You might already know this, but…”.

What about being on the receiving end?

Golda Meir, the former Prime Minister of Israel, was right when she said, “When it comes to feedback most people prefer to give rather than receive.” So how can we be more open to receiving feedback?

Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck, has spent a lifetime researching achievement and success, and has come to the conclusion that people either have what she calls a Fixed Mindset or a Growth Mindset. People with a Fixed Mindset believe they are born with a fixed amount of talent, intelligence or innate ability. The consequence is, when they hit difficulties or receive negative feedback, they are more likely to give up as they don’t want to look bad or believe they have reached their limit.

On the other hand people with a Growth Mindset believe the mind is like a muscle that can be developed through practice and effort. (By the way neuroscience has proven this to be true.) So when someone cultivates a Growth Mindset, they are more likely to embrace challenges as a way to build capacity; persist in the face of setbacks; look for lessons in the success of others, rather than being jealous; and welcome criticism as a way of learning and growing. In other words, when we adopt a Growth Mindset all feedback is good. In fact we seek it out because it is now seen as a vital tool for our growth. And what’s exciting about this research is that a Fixed Mindset is in fact not fixed as we can choose to adopt the Growth Mindset in how we approach the world.

By the way, I just read this Tip out loud to my wife and she said “So why don’t you practice this more yourself?” A good point and a nice reminder that the toughest feedback often comes from the people who really care.


Greg Nathan is a psychologist, author and an international expert on the franchise relationship. Connect with him on Google+ or Linkedin.

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