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What do I mean?

If you are baffled by the title of this blog, that is fine. I have been thinking about this same question on and off for over two years, and it has left me baffled at times too. However, I believe there is a real value to asking yourself that question when dealing with difficult conversations at work.

This all started when I was listening to Daniel Vitalis’ Rewild Yourself podcast. In an interview with a guest, they discussed the number of negative words in the English language and the potential for those words to have a negative cultural influence.

The theory is that the more negative language we use when talking to someone, the higher the probability that the person will be disengaged. And that makes sense. I have my own memories of being on the end of negative language so I know how that feels, and I am sure you do too.

Let me be clear, there is a time and a place to apply this rule, and it will not apply in every situation. Sometimes negative language must be used to classify somebody’s actions as a way of remaining transparent. And other times, it can be used if somebody does not understand the gravity of their situation. However, that does not mean that we can not look to be more motivating and human in most of our conversations.

Let’s put this into practice

When we have to give constructive feedback at work, we must consider the quality of language we use to provide that feedback. In certain instances, work that is not of the required standard could still be said to be good, even if it needs to be better to make the final cut.

The reality is, for an individual to be employed by your organisation and reporting to you, they must have already beaten off some competition, and that deserves support. When their work is not of the required standard, should it be said that it is good, simply because it allows for a more positive follow-up conversation?

When you make an investment to employ, part of that investment includes a contribution to their development. Happier, more engaged people are always more like to respond positively to constructive feedback.

So you have to give constructive feedback?

Instead of referring to the work as poor or bad, recognise the work as good and ask questions exploring options that could make it better.

Happier, more engaged people are always more like to respond positively to constructive feedback.

One step further

The final step could even be said to take all negative feedback out completely by asking managers to adopt a coaching mindset. Addressing work that is not of the required standard would become the role of the individual, rather than the manager.

Training managers on the fundamentals of coaching helps to build a culture where individuals can ascertain their own performance. Can you empower your people to look after their own development?

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