You’ve probably been there too. Maybe in a meeting, maybe at an awkward social gathering where an idea is raised then gets rolling and all you can think is “how did this catch on?” “Am I crazy? Is this brilliance that I just can’t see?”
You may not want to be the naysayer in the bunch and be perceived as negative but you really don’t want to get stuck with a lousy idea either. We in Minnesota especially struggle with this issue as we’re taught to be Minnesota Nice. Ok, now I’m obviously just having a little fun here as no matter where you’re from it can be a sensitive subject in shooting down someone but in an attempt to help, here are a few ways to actually try to get at the age-old issue of delivering feedback in a work setting.
Blunt Honesty Approach
Pros: Should be clearly understood, To the point with minimal wasted time filled with less than sincere positioning.
Cons: Can leave bad feelings on part of recipient, You can wind up looking like quite a jerk.
Some can pull off blunt honesty and be just fine with the approach. Heck, some are actually praised for their “straight shooter” nature. Doesn’t work in practicality for many people though. If you need practice in this method, perhaps turn to where most of life’s answers are found, Office Space.
The “Help me Understand” Method
Pros: Allows you to be “nice” but still hoping to poke a hole in the idea, Can provide actual constructive feedback in some cases.
Cons: Still may put you in a position to just need to go with blunt honesty if your hinting doesn’t get it done.
This one is a regional favorite here in the Midwest. You can ask questions to make it seem like you’re confused and asking because you care….however, most that use this method are actually going with this as a defense to avoid the direct route. Ask relevant questions to help you understand where they are coming from and maybe see if there is some good thinking going on that you’re missing. It can also help them start to see some possible failings if they haven’t thought of some of the pitfalls you’re seeing. You know you’re losing the positive vibe and need to switch approaches when you hit phrases like “huh, that’s one way to look at it” or “that’s a different idea” and maybe even the granddaddy of them all “well, that’s unique” (accompanied by slightly rolled eyes for style points).
Idea Building and Constructive Feedback
Pros: Can really lead to better ideas moving forward, Doesn’t shoot down a person that really does feel good about an idea.
Cons: Still may not wind up with an idea you entirely believe in but you can collaboratively determine that based on this style.
Idea building is a way to begin with sucky idea number one and help add some thinking to it in order to help move it to a more palatable concept. In finding a piece of the idea that has merit, you may be able to support a concept if not the exact model that someone brought forward for execution initially. You’re actually working to engage in a good discussion and brainstorm at this point which can keep you in a positive mode and helping someone improve their own thinking. This really is the best option in giving feedback though it can be challenging and while it can be hard to tell anyone that their ideas just don’t work for you, it’s going to be the best option most of the time.
Or just try to distract them so you can run out the back door….kidding, haha….mostly.