Delivering Negative Feedback? How to Lessen the Blow

Michael Grinder is my mentor and is the man who taught me all I know about group dynamics – he is a master of non verbal communication and we will, with his permission, be bring you a series of his blogs as guest blogs!

This one is on how to deliver information that is not perceived as good and how to use eye contact to maintain the state of both people – great for leadership AND parenting!

Delivering Bad News? How to Lessen the Blow by Using Effective Eye Contact

One evening, a friend of mine came to me after a grueling week at work. She had to give some negative feedback to one of her employees and was upset with how personally he took the news. She said to me, “I just talked to him about some things that needed to change, but he really doesn’t take criticism very well.” While that could be the case, it is likely that the problem was actually in the delivery.You can be as tactful as possible with what you say verbally, but if you’re not using the correct non-verbal communication, there’s a high likelihood that it will encourage high emotions in the other person, and they will take the negative message personally. So what can you do to ensure that the listener is able to tackle negative news with less emotion and that you’re able to evoke positive emotion when it helps your message? The secret is all in the eye contact.

Two-point Communication

Eye contact is referred to as two-point communication because there are two parties involved in the communication. Two-point communication is interpersonal in that the relationship between the parties is accessed. Two-point communication increases the emotions inside the parties who are looking at each other. This is true whether the emotions are positive or negative and whether the leader is managing or teaching.

Three-point Communication

Since the people will follow the leader’s eyes, once she has people’s attention, they will look where she directs her eyes. If the leader looks at a whiteboard, the team will follow her lead and look at the board also. Since the two parties, namely the leader and team members, are looking at a third point, the communication is referred to as a three-point communication. Three-point communication is not as personal as two-point communication. Three-point communication is less emotional than two-point communication because the focus is on the issue level of the communication instead of the relationship level.

As teachers and leaders, we have been over-trained in direct eye contact (two points). It’s time to branch out and become a master of three-point communication as well! If the interaction you’re having is positive, it’s okay to make eye contact; if it’s negative, it’s better to employ a third point as it is less confronting.

So the next time you have to deliver negative feedback or talk about an issue that’s occurring, try using three-point communication. You’ll be surprised at how receptive your listeners becomes and relieved at the lack of defensiveness that is fostered by this handy trick!

By Michael Grinder & Mary Yenik

2011 Michael Grinder & Associates, (360) 687 3238
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