Communication Skills Tactic: How to get HONEST Feedback

Honest feedback--communication skills--business communication

If you’re polishing your effective communication skills, learning how to get honest feedback will most likely be part of your communication training. This professional communication skill is easy to develop simply by learning just one two-step communication technique. In many of my on-site communication training seminars and keynotes, this topic comes up, so I thought I’d post one of my favorite communication strategies here so that you can enjoy some free communication training.

Here’s a typical professional communication example of when you would need some honest feedback:

Suppose you’re at a business luncheon with a client and you ask, “So what did you think of that proposal I just delivered?”

People tend to give you hollow compliments and say things such as, “It was nice. I really liked it.”

People don’t do this to be difficult, or because they don’t care; they’re trying to be polite–but as you know, normally that’s not not a good recipe for 100% truth. So how can we get the honest professional feedback we need? Simple. Use the What Would it Take tactic. The What Would it Take tactic is an easy two-step process:

Step #1 – You ask someone for an opinion on something. For example, “John, here’s that proposal I’ve been working on. What do you think of it?”

Now John will probably say something nice and polite such as, “Oh it looks great.”  That’s OK, but it’s normally not the whole truth–it’s what John thinks you want to hear. So then you go to:

Step #2 – Use the, “What would it take…” line. It sounds like this: “Well, thanks John, but tell me, What would it take to make it even better?”  Now you’re more likely to get the answer you were looking for the first time–an honest answer such as, “Well, if you added some more financial details and graphics, I believe it would be even more compelling.”

That’s the type of thing people wish they could say the first time, but they can’t–they need some guidance and permission from you. This communication technique delivers both. It does so because you firstlet them say what they thought you wanted to hear, and then thanked them for it and asked for more, so they were then able to give you the honest truth the second time around.

Now all that’s left is to say is something simple like, “thanks,” and you have the honest feedback you were looking for–easy breezy.

This is a great tactic for getting to the truth. People very rarely tell it to you the first time (especially the “amiable” personality type), so let them go ahead and say nice things they think you want to hear, and simply follow it up with a, “What would it take…” line.

It even works well at home when, for example, you’ve made dinner for your spouse, and you ask, “Here, Honey, taste this and tell me what you think.”

If your spouse is like most, you’ll hear a, “Tastes great!” But that doesn’t really mean much. If you follow it up, however, with a communication technique such as this one, and say, “Thanks sweetheart. Tell me, what would it take to make it even tastier?” NOW you’ll be more likely to get some honest feedback such as, “Well, I think if you left out the chunks of garlic and onion, it would be even tastier.” Simple.

Now be prepared–if you don’t really want honest feedback, then don’t use this communication tactic, because you’re more likely to get it.

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Dan O’Connor has been leading the communication training industry for more than 20 years. Through his bestselling books, his #1 rated YouTube channel, and his online courses, Dan transforms the global conversation and the lives of countless individuals every day.

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