[Editor’s note: This is the fifth installment in Jennifer Abrams’ ‘Personal Development’ column for eSchool News. In her columns, Abrams focuses on leadership skills for anyone working in a school or district. Read more about the column here.]  

Have you ever heard the question, “Can I give you some feedback?” Did you want to say “No” immediately? Did your fight-or-flight reflex go into hyper mode? If so, you are not alone. Framing feedback with that question starter has a neurologically negative impact.

In “SCARF: a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others,” Dr. David’s Rock article in NeuroLeadership Journal, he states: “In most people, the question ‘Can I offer you some feedback?’ generates a similar response to hearing fast footsteps behind you at night. Performance reviews often generate status threats, explaining why they are often ineffective at stimulating behavioral change.”

Can I give you some feedback? And other ways to not offer ideas

“Can I give you some feedback?” is in most cases followed by “You might want to think about….” or “Something to consider could be…” and, given that you have just upped someone’s blood pressure with the initial inquiry, it might not be a great place to begin.

Offering a suggestion is tricky business, so here a few ideas to make your suggestion be something that another person can hear.

(Next page: Better ways to offer feedback)

About the Author:

Jennifer Abrams is an international education and communications consultant. She considers herself a voice coach, helping others learn how to best use their voices–be it collaborating on a team, presenting in front of an audience, coaching a colleague, or supervising an employee. Abrams’ books include Having Hard Conversations, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicate, Collaborate, and Create Community, and Hard Conversations Unpacked: the Whos, the Whens, and the What Ifs. She has also created a Corwin Press e-course. Abrams writes a monthly newsletter/blog, Voice Lessons, at www.jenniferabrams.com. Follow her on Twitter @jenniferabrams.


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