What do you do when you receive complaints about someone’s performance, they’re known to be defensive and it seems even though you’ve waited (and hoped the issue would just resolve itself), the issue is still there?
Wait longer and hope harder?
First off, there isn’t any miracle way for dealing with defensiveness.
While it’s doubtful a defensive person is going to stop in their tracks and thank you profusely for your feedback, you can still have an impact.
All you’re looking to do is point out their behaviour and hope what you say, is spoken and received with openness and helps to improve their practice or performance.
While that sounds like a pretty simple goal, these 5 tips will help ensure you get the outcome you’re looking for. Sound good?
This means, don’t call the person names (I know you know that!) and don’t refer to them by that 4-letter word … jerk or lazy!
Instead focus on the behaviour you want changed. i.e. “I notice the sterile technique you are using doesn’t seem to meet the standards for our area,” or “I notice when you get busy, your tone of voice changes and sounds more aggressive than I think you intend it to mean.”
There’s a tendency for some leaders to gather several examples of the undesirable behaviour that needs changing and then speak to the person about all of these instances. Do you really think hearing a laundry list of undesirable examples is going to feel like a bed of rose petals? It’s too overwhelming so …
Instead give one example of the behaviour that needs changing. If you have a laundry list, you can say, “I’ve noticed a pattern of behaviour.” And then you give One example. If the person asks for other examples, then you have permission to share other examples with them.
There’s a body of knowledge that says the brain can’t process a negative. That means when you say, ‘Don’t interrupt me,’ the brain hears ‘interrupt me.’ It’s the same philosophy as ‘you get more of what you pay attention to’ or ‘energy goes where attention flows.’
In terms of feedback it means this: Share what you want the person to do – not what you don’t want them to do. For example, “Please let me finish speaking before you respond” as opposed to “don’t interrupt me.”
Easy to do? Ummm, keep practicing!
I know defensive people can make it difficult to give feedback. It’s usually because it’s difficult for them to hear they need to improve in some area. One way to mitigate that is to give them an opportunity to share their perspective.
Invite them into the conversation – don’t make feedback a monologue. No-one likes to be told what to do. Instead make it a dialogue. A dialogue doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. It also doesn’t mean what you said doesn’t count. It’s simply the easiest way to hear their perspective!
Many times people enter into a feedback conversation thinking they have all the information and answers. Not a good starting place. When it comes to giving feedback to someone who may be defensive, you have to become a journalist. That means, you ask questions:
· What happened?
· How did that happen?
· How can you prevent that outcome in the future?
· What do you need from me to resolve this?
· Get it? (that’s not one of the journalist questions!)
Avoid ‘Why’ questions. Why? ‘Why’ questions get at the person’s motivation. Many times people do not know why they say or do certain things. That’s why people get defensive with ‘why’ questions. (there’s an awful lot of ‘whys’ in that short paragraph!)
People are also more open to feedback (and less defensive) when they see you are also open to feedback (again making feedback a two-way street). Here are 3 questions I’ve found really beneficial for getting feedback.
1. What do you want me to keep doing?
2. What do you want me to do more of?
3. What do you want me to stop doing?
Give them a try and let me know how they work for you.
Learn, Laugh Share
Barb Langlois RN, BSN, MSN
Sign Up for FREE Valuable Communication Insights That Produce Results.
Our workshop participants found Barb’s approach to teaching at the Centre for Professional Development to be dynamic and engaging. Barb not only taught effective communication and presentation skills, but also role modelled techniques throughout the day. Participants were excited to be able to apply learning’s directly into their day to day roles
Associate Director at the Centre for Professional Development, Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto.
Your plenary session was a real asset and a great contribution to the success of our National IPAC Conference. From beginning to end participants were energized and actively engaged.
Gwyneth Meyers BSc, MSc, PhD
Scientific Committee Chair
“The workshop was wonderful!! Barb walked the talk by continuously demonstrating the tips and skills she was teaching! It was amazing to see it all come together. I would recommend the workshop to anyone who has to present.”
Bev Waite, Education Lead-Nursing,
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
I told one of the nurse educators that it was the best 3 hours I have spent in a training session as the content was clear, relevant, exactly enough to be able to incorporate into presentations, and you demonstrated each point which was great. It was watching an expert at work.
Aideen Carroll, Advanced Practice Nurse Educator
Toronto General Hospital
Your workshop was also a big hit. It was interesting to hear people talk about it as not good, but great.
CMP Manager of Governance and Events CNA
After working with Barb, our team returned to work energized, enthused and inspired to utilize tools that increase our communication, clarity and relationship with not only each other, but also with the residents and families that we serve. I would highly recommend Barb if you want to bring out the best in your team.
Dale Clements, Administrator
Barb Langlois led a wonderful one day workshop for 45 Clinical Nurse Educators in Saskatoon Health Region. She worked with us in advance to really understand our learning needs, Six months later, I see CNEs using Barb’s techniques to engage learners and I use them myself in my own presentations. I strongly recommend Barb – she is a very skilled facilitator who connects with learners in a very meaningful and effective way.
Margot Hawke RN, BSN, MCEd, Nursing Professional Practice Lead
Saskatoon Health Region
Strengthen Your Rejection Muscle
Most people fear it.Fear of rejection is one of our deepest human fears, bypassing pain, loneliness and yes even… public speaking!Fear of re