#4. Step One: Creating Shared Reality (Part One) (“Here is what I heard”)
Now that you’ve done the pre-step, connecting to the purpose or meaning it would give you to speak up, let’s focus on what you actually want to say.
Usually in giving feedback we’re responding to something we heard or saw someone say or do.
To create a shared reality about what happened, it’s very helpful to be as concrete as possible about what we saw or heard.
How do we create a shared reality?
When responding to something we heard, that’s easy. Just let the other person know, as succinctly as possible, exactly what you heard them say.
For example, if you think someone said something wrong or inaccurate, rather than saying, “What you said is wrong,” or “You misunderstood things!,” let the person know the exact words you heard. For example, “Yesterday I heard you say we need to get the results before we do a draft of the report.” Or “I heard you say last week you don’t want to go on vacation in July.” Give the specific words you heard.
Notice that part of what makes this concrete is that we:
- Use “I” statements. This has accuracy because we can’t say for sure what the other person said. We can say for sure what we heard the other person say.
- Give some reference to when you heard this. For example, “Just now…” or “Last night…” or “Several times in the last month I’ve heard you say…” “or “At our last meeting…” this helps with creating shared reality.
- Avoid summarizing or giving your opinion about what you heard. Just share the actual words. This is probably the most important part of giving effective feedback—letting the other person know exactly what you heard them say.
Take a moment and consider:
In the next day, take a moment to practice this step. The next time you’re irritated, angry, disappointed or impatient, take a moment to check. What exactly did you hear? What exactly happened?
If you do share it and the person pushes back, check to see if you really have given a complete observation. One time I approached a taxi driver on my bicycle and said, “Excuse me, I wonder if you noticed you cut me off at the last light?” The driver snapped back, “Lady, I didn’t cut you off!” When I was able to give him a clear observation:“Well, you pulled over to the curb to a drop a passenger off without indicating and I had to brake to avoid hitting you, and almost flew over my handle bars”- he immediately apologized.