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Give feedback – even if it’s a very difficult person. EVE ASH

Eve Ash

By Eve Ash

Whatever the difficult situation encountered when giving feedback, being familiar with certain skills and techniques will give you confidence to handle them effectively.

Why do people avoid giving feedback?

  • Fear of upsetting others and making the whole situation worse.
  • Don’t know what to say.
  • Have tried and it didn’t help.
  • Fear of retaliation later or impact on their own job situation.
  • Not assertive – they stay quiet even when they are unhappy about situations.

Here are the four most common difficult situations encountered when giving feedback:

  • Is not motivated to listen.
  • Is uncommitted to action.
  • Gets angry, shocked or upset.
  • Disagrees with you.

Not motivated to listen

If people are unmotivated to listen to feedback that is provided, it may be because of their expectations regarding the feedback process. One solution is to ensure that right from the beginning of a relationship, the importance of two-way feedback is understood.

Both parties to the feedback process need to contract with each other about how and when feedback will be given. If contracting was not dealt with at the beginning of the relationship, then it should be addressed as soon as possible. The contract then becomes the basis for future action.

Not committed to action

Sometimes people understand the feedback they are given but are uncommitted to act on it. A solution then is to link the feedback to goals. You can link feedback to overall corporate goals.

You can also make feedback more effective by following it up with goal-setting (such as action planning). Either way, it will increase the impact of the feedback.

Emotional reactions

Some people get upset when they are given negative feedback. This may be because they are not familiar with the feedback process, or simply are surprised that they could be doing an unsatisfactory job.

These situations are best dealt with by giving the person room to work through their emotions. They need to be told that it is OK to be upset. They may need some time to recover, before the conversation is moved on to some positive future actions. When someone is angry, empathy or even partial acknowledgment of justified complaints may help.


Another possible response to negative feedback is disagreement. If the disagreement is about facts, then examples and evidence should be provided. If the disagreement is not about facts but about whether there is a problem or not, then the consequences of the behaviour should be explored so that the person understands more fully the implications of their behaviour.

Feedback culture

You want to aim to have an open honest feedback culture where there is:

  1. Trust.
  2. No blaming.
  3. People openly give and receive feedback.
  4. No defensiveness.
  5. Everyone open to learning and improving.


Play See the video Giving Feedback Advanced


Eve Ash is the founder of Seven Dimensions and Ash.Quarry Productions and co-producer with fellow psychologist Peter Quarry, of the best-selling video GIVING FEEDBACK – ADVANCED SKILLS (Feedback Solutions Series)


Click here for more Eve Ash blogs



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