In coaching, how do you give a client constructive negative feedback?

Giving constructive negative feedback can be uncomfortable. As a coach, if we are uncomfortable or afraid to give negative feedback, it will be essential to discuss this with a colleague, coach, mentor, or therapist. This exploration can help us get to the root of our concerns and fears and where the origins of these fears may have begun.

We can remind ourselves about the tenet of congruence. If we see something that the client is unaware of or is trying not to acknowledge, our job is to point this out and discuss it. By withholding this information, we are ultimately doing them a disservice

Generally, after rapport is built, there is an understanding that whatever feedback is given is indeed done with their best interest at heart. Most clients know that we intend to help. Pay close attention to the words you choose. The words chosen make a big difference. 

Usually, we can point out observations. We can start the feedback with something like, “I have noticed that you….” Or make an interpretation of what we have noticed. Sometimes this is done very straightforward. It depends upon the person or the situation. 

Pay close attention to their body language. Remember that generally, people want this feedback. They understand that this is part of the working relationship. On the rare occasion that a person gets defensive, stay very calm and offer an interpretation. Usually, by this point, we know the person. We may understand what developmental conflict is being played out in the present. Usually, it is something along the lines of feeling rejected, having disappointed an authority figure, or not being good enough. Just remember to not take things personally.

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