Disarming Defensiveness

Deliver feedback constructively and motivate your team.

Tough Times

Inspired by:

Andy Molinsky, Ph.D. and author of "Reach"


Disarming Defensiveness

When delivering critical feedback, especially if it's gathered from multiple people, it's important to be constructive so that your team member is motivated to improve.

But what happens if whenever you try, they get defensive? Here's a 3 steps you can use to disarm it and encourage the change you're striving for.

🤗 1. Get permission

Ask if it’s a good time to share feedback with a team member. If not, ask when would be a better time.

This allows them to get into the right frame of mind for hearing tough news rather than being caught off-guard.

💁 2. Turn your criticism into a request

Criticism is about the past, but requests are about the future.

Instead of: You're always multitasking during meetings

Try asking: For next week, could you make sure to focus 100% on the conversation we're having during our team meeting.

🙋‍♀️ 3. Take responsibility

When you make people feel like they’re “the problem”, they’re more likely to react defensively.

Disarm this by highlighting how you and the rest of the team contributed.

You're giving feedback that customer support tickets aren't being answered in time, you can acknowledge how the whole team (can be more proactive.

🧑‍🏫 Pro-tip: Don't walk back feedback

Taking responsibility doesn't mean disputing the feedback you've been asked to deliver. If you walk back critical feedback, it will undermine it and make you look misaligned.

Instead ask: "How can I or the team act differently to make sure the improvement can happen?"

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