Giving feedback is hard: | by Wes Kao 🏛

Wes Kao 🏛


3 months ago

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Giving feedback is hard: • You’ve identified a problem • You know you need to talk about it • You’re worried they'll get defensive Relax! It’ll be okay. Here’s the framework I use to turn every feedback conversation into a win-win:

Feedback conversations are typically reactive. You’ve been frustrated for a while, so you see the opportunity to share feedback as a chance to FINALLY unload. But your recipient isn’t sure where all the negativity is coming from.

They’re hurt, confused, and defensive. Instead of embracing your feedback, they see it as an attack. You worry about retaliation because now things are awkward. You wonder if you should have stayed silent… Here’s a better way:

I call this framework Strategy vs Self-Expression: 👍 Strategy = Anything that contributes to potential behavior change 👎 Self expression = Everything else you should not say Feedback conversations should be about strategy, not self-expression.

Every feedback conversation is actually a sales conversation. The prize? Behavior change. Sweet, sweet behavior change. Your feedback is a mechanism to change the person’s future actions. It’s the bridge from how they ARE behaving to how YOU WANT THEM to behave.

Self-expression is counterproductive. What it looks like: ❌ Venting your frustration ❌ Trying to teach someone a lesson ❌ Trying to prove you're right 90% of what you want to say off the top of your head is probably self-expression.

Self-expression is why most feedback conversations fail. After all, you’ve been annoyed with this person for a while. You want them to know how they made your life harder. It’s common to unload your pent up bitterness onto them. This has the opposite effect of what you want.

On the other hand, strategy is productive. It means ONLY saying things that lead to positive behavior change. Your recipient will be: ✅ Eager to improve ✅ Motivated to change ✅ Excited to work with you

Whenever I deviate from strategy, I instantly regret it. So before you speak, ask yourself: “Is this strategy or self-expression?” Here are 3 steps to ensure you prioritize strategy:

1. Mentally forgive the person This part is important. Do not skip it. If you are filled with resentment or anger, it WILL boil over. It won’t take much to throw you off: • A passive-aggressive comment • A tiny smirk • A raise of their eyebrows

Don’t risk letting this derail you. Get your frustration out of your system BEFORE you walk into the room. Talk to your spouse, friend, or therapist.

2. Identify what will motivate them to change This isn’t about punishing them for the difficulty they caused you. You’ve already lived through it. The best thing you can do now is ensure they do better in the future.

Your recipient can only do better if they: • Know what to do • Feel motivated • Are excited and committed to change This is why you should be clear, direct, and positive. This will inspire them to WANT to change.

This often means giving the benefit of the doubt even when–especially when–you don’t feel like the person deserves it. 🚫 Before: “Why did you do that? That was pretty stupid. It embarrassed me and the whole company… Your mistake caused x damage and y trouble.”

✅ After: “I totally get why you did that. You might have thought x or y. In the future, a better way to handle if something like this comes up is z. Here’s how to do it. It's a bummer but I’m also glad this happened because it’s a great learning opportunity for all of us.”

3. Say only the 10% that will actually change behavior Brainstorm and write out what you want to say… Then trim 90% of your original script! If you’re honest with yourself, most of it was probably self-expression.

In other words, you need to sell and persuade them to change: ✔️ What’s the upside for them? ✔️ Why will it benefit them to change? ✔️ How will it get them closer to their goals? Don’t focus on why their behavior change helps you. Focus on why changing helps THEM.

To summarize, remember that feedback conversations are about strategy, not self-expression. The goal is behavior change. Focus solely on getting closer to the behavior you want to see. Give this framework a shot and let me know what you think.

That's all for today. If you found this valuable: 1. Follow for threads on entrepreneurship, education, and marketing → @wes_kao 2. Apply for Maven Course Accelerator. It's a 2-week program on how to teach your own live course. It's free. Apply here:

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