What’s a conversation you’ve been avoiding? A conversation at work, at home, with a colleague, with your partner?
Most likely, you are avoiding the conversation not just because of what you think will happen but rather because you don’t know how to achieve the outcome that you need. Your conversation likely involves feedback you want to give – the kind of conversation where you want to raise someone’s awareness of their behaviour’s impact.
This is where Kerry Patterson’s CPR framework comes into play. It helps you get clear on what is the appropriate feedback level for achieving your intended outcome.
Level One Feedback: Content
This feedback is about what someone did or didn’t do, say or didn’t say. This feedback is definite and observable – you simply name who did what and when. And you typically speak to a specific instance of what happened.
But what happens after you give the feedback? What if they do the same, or something similar, again? You likely give them content feedback again. But what happens when they do it a third time? And a fourth time? Do you give up? Do you get angry? Here’s what you can do instead: change the level of feedback.
Level Two Feedback: Pattern
This feedback is not on what the person did but rather on the pattern of behaviour that has become evident. “I noticed this morning that you were late again. We spoke of this yesterday and you committed to being on time.” When you give feedback on a behaviour pattern, do not get sucked into the content of today’s excuse, like “Yeah, but today I was late because the bus…” Your message is not about today, it is in fact about a pattern, and therefore today’s reason for being late, even if it is an acceptable one, is irrelevant. If there’s something that has this person be late without it being their fault, they can raise that and perhaps the agreed time needs to shift.
Level Three Feedback: Relationship
Over time the pattern of behaviour will come to have a negative impact on your relationship with the other person – a death by a thousand cuts, if you will. The pattern of behaviour brings repeated disappointment, and that erodes trust. And the absence of trust, and thus psychological safety, will affect how you interact and treat each other, both consciously and subconsciously. And this is a feedback you also need to give: that you don’t trust that person to be on time anymore and all of the impact that this has on your relationship.
The Challenge: When to give which feedback?
The challenge is to recognize when the other person’s behaviour requires you to change the level at which you are giving feedback. If you always focus on content rather than shifting to pattern or relationship, then you will likely sound like a broken record. And wasting your breath. If you jump to relationship without having addressed the emerging pattern, you may be seen as over-reacting.
The level at which you need to give someone feedback about a behaviour, changes over time.
Remember, your objective when giving feedback is to always get a result. It is to get somebody to start doing something, to continue doing something or to stop doing something. The level at which you focus your feedback reflects the changing importance of what they are doing or not doing.
Kerry Patterson’s Crucial Confrontations can be a great help to support you in understanding more about how to have difficult conversations and exploring CPR feedback.
Keep this in mind as you plan to have that conversation with a colleague, partner or family member.