My husband is in management and customer service, and my business background is in management and sales. Setting expectations, reviews, and assessments of subordinates were a part of the package, and over the years we both heard a variety of recommendations on how to do it constructively.
He mentioned the other day that he found a useful tip from an article on LinkedIn. The author explored the power of “and” in the context of giving feedback.
Bill Gross’ assertion was that when we give feedback with a “but” in the middle, psychology leads the person being reviewed to totally discount what came before it. It is the part of the sentence after “but” that stayed with them. My husband said he was finding the technique very helpful in his reviews and daily feedback to his team.
Blinding Flash of the Obvious…How often do we, as parents, give that same kind of feedback to our children?
“You are a great big brother, but when you yell at your little brother, it doesn’t help anything.”
What do you think your child heard in that sentence? You had the best intentions when you said it, but intentions often don’t matter in the moment. Your child came away with the feeling that you were disappointed in him and your positive words will be discounted.
What could you say instead?
“You are such a great big brother, and I know you are working on using your indoor voice with your little brother.”
Very similar, isn’t it? You just modified it a small amount, and the biggest part was substituting “and” for “but.”
Another example (and boy, have I been guilty of this one!): “That’s so cool that you got a B on the test, but an A would be even better!”
What could I have said instead?
“That’s so cool that you got a B on that test, and with all of your hard work I bet A’s are just around the corner!”
I submit that grades are a potential hot spot and sometimes even the most constructive statements can be taken as criticism. No one said this job was easy!
Losing the “but” will improve your feedback to your children, your family, and your friends. You will not give with one hand and take away with the other and your input will be perceived as more constructive even though you are still saying the same thing.