COMMUNICATION & How to Give Feedback to Someone Who Gets Crazy Defensive

by Holly Weeks, Harvard Business Review, 8/12/15.

How to give feedback to someone who gets crazy defensive?… To get there, she can use a blueprint that pulls together three attributes of speaking well in tough moments: clear content, neutral tone, and temperate phrasing. (These are opposites to both skilled incompetence and confrontation.)

Clear content: …Imagine that you are a newscaster and that it’s important that people understand the information. If your counterpart distorts what you say, repeat it just as you said it the first time.

Neutral tone: …It’s hard to use a neutral tone when your emotions are running high. That’s why you need to practice it ahead of time, so you’re used to hearing it. Think of the classic neutrality of NASA communications in tough situations: “Houston, we have a problem.”

Temperate phrasing: There are lots of different ways to say what you have to say. Some are temperate; some baldly provoke your counterpart with loaded language. If your counterpart dismisses, resists, or throws back your words, he’s not likely to hold onto your content — so choose your words carefully…

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