Positive Conversations

Positive Conversations from Kevin Parker, GS Consultancy


1.        Focus On Behaviour

Feedback what you have actually observed or better still what an independent third person would have seen. Keep it judgement free. The moment you put your judge ‘hat’ on you are heading for trouble. You are likely to be making assumptions that could easily be wrong. Never assume because it can make an ASS (out of) U (and) ME

2.        Ensure You Have an Agreed Outcome

Focus on future success and avoid getting immersed in the past. Aim to have a joint problem solving discussion about achieving an agreed future desired outcome. The future is a safe place to be, and the more compelling the outcome is for both parties, the greater impact it will have on your responses to the situation now (Remember E + R = 0)

3.        Put Yourself in the Other Persons Shoes

The aim of feedback should be to help the other person improve or to carry on what they are already doing well. It’s very helpful therefore to put yourself in their shoes to understand how they might be thinking about the issue. It they are acting strangely for example, a great question to ask is: “What would make a reasonable person act this way?”

4.        Say What You Want To Say

One of the biggest failings in giving feedback is lack of directness and honesty. We hold back so as not to hurt the other person or cause an argument. The other person usually feels something is not being said and feels unsafe. So in preparation ask yourself ‘if you weren’t self censoring yourself what would you say?’. Then say it out loud to yourself! Only then tone if down if necessary before your meeting.

5.        Make Sure Its Win-Win

Your feedback may be about something that’s bugging you, but the other person is unlikely to do anything about it unless there’s an impact on them too. Working this out will make all the difference to your success. Also make sure it’s of sufficient impact to make someone want to change. Be open to feedback from the other person. If you can take it well then it helps the other person

6.        Create the Right Environment

If it’s important feedback then do it well. Choose a quiet place. Ensure you can manage interruptions and you have enough time. Avoid sitting behind desks and most of all turn off that compute and mobile phone! Create the right environment – don’t make it too friendly if there is something serious to discuss

7.        Build Rapport

Ensure you make good eye contact, sit tall, and keep good posture. If you want to let the other person know you agree with them, don’t fold your arms tightly cross your legs or turn your body away from the person. Instead, try to match their body positioning; this indicates silent agreement. Make sure your message and your body language match. If there is any discrepancy, people are more likely to believe what your body language is saying than your words.

8.        Keep it Safe

When conversations start getting emotional or you find yourself in an argument, nothing useful will be achieved. When you notice this – stop trying to pursue the discussion! Check your assumptions, apologise for it going wrong, and rebuild a safe environment for the conversation. Only then go back to discussing the issue. And remember – It’s a two way conversation!

9.        Use Emotions But Don’t Get Emotional

When we get over emotional good thinking declines rapidly. We are not robots though. So the trick is to say what you’re feeling, and start your sentence with ‘I’. This means you own the emotion and don’t blame the other person for it. This also serves the purpose of helping the other person understand what’s happening, and the personal impact on you. It will help to defuse the emotional feeling as well. Ask the other person how they feel – it works for them too!

10.    Balance ‘Pushing’ & ‘Pulling’

Remember any feedback discussion should be a two way conversation. You probably initiate it by raising the issue. Keep the start short (three sentences and a question is a great rule to start things). When you find you are not getting your point across stop pushing it and start pulling the discussion along. Ask open questions to understand their position. Listen and summarise.


Documentation from:

G S Consultancy (Management Training) Ltd
Tel +44 (0)1452 616726