How to give feedback when someone just isn't hearing it?


Hi, Claire here, CEO of Know Your Team, where we give you the training and tools to become the best manager possible.

And today I'm back with another KYT manager tip, this time around feedback, and when someone just really doesn't want to hear the feedback, and even no matter how many times you've given the feedback, they just don't seem to be hearing it.

I think this is one of the most frustrating situations to find ourselves in as leaders, and even though we schedule the one-on-one meeting, even though we try to be as clear and specific as possible, the person's behavior for whatever reason doesn't seem to change, even if we've gotten a verbal commitment of, "Yes, no, I am gonna do something different." So why does this continue to happen in the first place? Why isn't this person actually internalizing the feedback that you are trying to give, whether it's about their tone and how they're coming across in a meeting or their actual performance and their level of detail in execution?

And really the main reason for if someone does receive feedback and you do feel like you've been as clear as possible, it's usually because the person themselves has not consciously made a commitment and feels as though they are being held in a positive way to that commitment. In other words, the reason this person isn't changing their behavior is because they actually haven't consciously opted in to changing their behavior.

So you may be asking, "Hey, it'd be great if you could do this." You may be saying, "Oh, you know, I think doing this would be great or important," but if the other person is just nodding their head passively, if the other person is just saying, "Oh, okay," rather than them volunteering, opting in, saying, "Okay, this is what I actually commit to changing," then it's actually unlikely that that behavior will become any different.

And so if you're in this situation where you've tried a variety of times to communicate a piece of feedback, the quote-unquote way to get through is to simply ask the question, "Given everything I've shared with you, what can we commit to doing differently going forward?" That single question creates the space then for that person to have to come up in their own minds, in their own language, of their own volition, how they actually wanna change their be their behavior, and once they commit to that change, that's the real first step to then actually seeing a difference in their behavior.

So keep that question in mind. What is it that we can commit to? And you'll notice I use the word we, because you don't wanna have it just be one-sided. There may be things that actually you as a leader need to commit to as well in order to create an environment for this person to be able to do this and to make this change.

But asking, what is it that we can can commit to doing differently going forward, given all this information that I've shared, is going to hold space for that person to actually make that commitment for themselves and to opt in and finally make the change and internalize the feedback that you've so desperately wanted them to truly take in.

I hope this was helpful and that it's something that you can use in your next conversation. If you're looking for more tips, more information, more resources just like this, be sure to check us out at and look forward to having you join us next time.

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