Raising Interpersonal Effectiveness
By raising our awareness of our own ego, and the ways in we reassure ourselves that we are a good and valuable person we can help ourselves to develop enhanced interpersonal effectiveness, through keeping it in its proper perspective.
Feedback, for example, is to aid the recipient in recognising ways to improve his or her performance. In the short term, we might have to show more patience and support than feels natural, or we might have to be more candid than we would prefer to be. The recipient however, is ultimately responsible for making use of the feedback. The recipient can choose to "be right" by discounting our feedback or "be successful" by hearing how to improve. We are purely responsible for managing the manner in which the feedback is given. We also have a choice to "be right" by giving feedback in the manner which comes easiest for us, or we can "be successful" by adapting our style to the needs of the recipient.
Though the recipient is ultimately responsible for his or her response to the message, we can make a difference by the way in which we deliver the message. Of course, timing and situation are important. Important commentary or feedback is harder to hear when it is dropped in the middle of an ongoing conversation than when a time and place is set aside to provide the information.
A vital distinction is differentiating between criticism and feedback. Criticism has an air of anger, blame, and finger pointing. To the recipient, criticism is reminiscent of looking up the long barrel of the wagging parental finger. That experience alone is enough to trigger defensiveness in most people. Furthermore, criticism is about the person, about general traits and characteristics, rather than about the specific behaviour of the person. It is challenge enough to change a comfortable behaviour, let alone trying to change our whole personality.
Criticism is often driven by the frustration and fears of the giver, not from the needs of the recipient. The underlying assumption is that the recipient somehow "should know better" and needs to be set straight. The implied message is that the recipient’s intentions are questionable, that there is something wrong with the recipient that the giver of criticism knows how to fix. In contrast, communication that has an air of caring concern, respect, and support enables a clear, adult to adult exchange in any situation. The assumption is that both parties have positive intentions that both parties want to be effective and to do what is right for the company and other people.
Another assumption is that well-meaning people can have legitimate differences in perception. The person offering the feedback owns the feedback as being his or her reaction to the situation or behaviour of the other person. That is, the giver recognises the fact that what is being offered is a perception, not absolute fact. These statements hold true even when the feedback giver is the boss and the stakes are high. Of course, the recipient needs to remember that the perceptions of the boss have great impact, but the recipient can hear the message better when delivered as feedback rather than criticism.