How do you feel when asked to give or receive feedback?
We find that people either tend to respond with great enthusiasm - “I love feedback! Bring it on!” - or slight terror - “Oh… feedback...” *wide eyes, nervous smile*.
At WE, our work develops Relational Mindfulness to help teams and individuals have healthier relationships, effective communication, and a stronger sense of belonging. We’ve facilitated thousands of conversations between co-workers to help them reimagine what's possible for connection and support within work relationships.
In our sessions, we’ve found that giving and receiving feedback is a useful tool for fostering better working relationships, engagement, and performance, and have seen that feedback works best when it’s a regular part of a team’s process. But because being asked to give or receive feedback can elicit very different reactions in everyone, we’ve renamed feedback interactions as “juicy conversations”.
“Juicy” is a fun word and, for us, it evokes the sense that there’s a lot to be squeezed out of these moments. Whether it’s giving candid feedback, addressing an unexpressed tension, or bringing up repeated habits that aren’t serving a relationship, we see all of these as juicy moments because they offer the potential for positive change (even if they require a deep breath to begin).
Why do we need juicy conversations?
Psychological safety and trust have been identified as a key factor for team success. In order to create safe spaces for people to be heard - the good, bad, and the ugly - there has to be a sense that we’re being real with each other while holding the bigger picture in mind. Once a team has created an environment of psychological safety and trust, they know where they stand with others and feel that they’re all committed to transparent connections.
In a recent WE workshop, an attendee shared about a co-worker with whom she noticed some underlying tension that hadn’t been there at the beginning of the session. The tension was confusing and made her uncomfortable. But rather than tolerating it, she initiated a “juicy conversation” by asking her co-worker if they could connect and talk about the session they were in together.
When they met, she told her co-worker, “I felt some tension towards the end of the session. I value you and the work we do together so I wanted to connect to hear from you about how you were feeling.” By having this conversation, she learned she had unintentionally offended her co-worker.
But by creating the space to connect, practicing active listening, and clarifying that her intentions were focused on improving the relationship, they were able to form a better connection and an agreement that issues would be addressed more quickly in the future. They were both surprised by how much the incident had negatively impacted them, but their juicy conversation created a standard for addressing future issues.
How to set yourself up for a juicy conversation
As previously mentioned, WE uses Relational Mindfulness, which is a research-based methodology that brings attention and awareness to the quality of your personal and professional relationships. Holding that in mind, it is important to be intentional in how you approach these conversations.
Set an intention
Before you start giving feedback, begin by having a clear and positive intention to create a safe container for the conversation. For example, setting a clear intention would be informing your co-worker that you want to chat with them because you have ideas for improving your communication and are excited to share with them. This is clear and positive compared to saying “Let’s chat, things are not working,” which is not only vague but has no clear intention and does not foster a safe environment.
Curate the right space
To create a safe container, communicate your intention clearly and respectfully to your colleague. Consider the timing of the conversation and setting if it’s a sensitive subject matter.
Remember, it’s very unlikely that a person will really hear you (or care to hear you) if you haven’t made the effort to communicate a clear intention and established a safe space. If all you’re hearing is “Yeah, I get that. Sounds good,” that’s not an indication that someone is actively preparing for your feedback.
For the juiciest results...
You’ve created a container and set a clear intention. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re having juicy conversations.
Clarify with questions
This is important when you’re both giving and receiving feedback. If you’re giving the feedback, take pauses to ask your partner questions on how this is landing for them and allow them to reflect on what you’re saying. If you’re receiving the feedback, ask clarifying questions or repeat back “What I heard you say is….” after you feel you have listened. This can confirm you’re aligned on the intention of what is being communicated.
It is easy to think you can hold all your feedback in your head but by taking notes you can focus on specific points and provide focused feedback which shows that you were really listening and care about the other person’s growth. Make notes in an app or Slack channel to remind you what you want to bring to a full debrief.
Remember to listen
One of our favorite tools at WE is an Active Listening Circle. You can activate one in your conversation by giving each person a designated amount of time to speak while everyone else is listening and not offering any commentary. This is a simple but powerful way to ensure that everyone gets space to speak.
Model what you want
Good ol’ self-reflection. If you want a transparent, trusting, and kind environment, your ability to listen and provide measured feedback that promotes psychological safety and trust will elicit similar behavior.
Juicy conversations not only build trust and foster psychological safety but also invite more collaboration and increase creativity - great competitive advantages for any business. We hope this article will help you view feedback in a more meaningful way, and bring more juicy conversations to your workplace.
Want to learn more about the benefits of feedback?