How to Give Feedback In a Virtual Setting

It’s hard to feel connected when you’re reading someone’s face through a computer screen.

Subtleties in body language may go unseen, like crossed arms just off-screen, or a gentle leaning into the conversation to show interest that can’t be detected through video conferencing. Reading each other’s body language is an important piece to the puzzle. It brings humanity into business and helps us navigate an office setting. 

Although video conferencing has helped bridge some gaps in virtual work, it still feels unusual to have the difficult conversations without being face-to-face. Since we aren’t given the luxury of calling an in-person meeting with our team members, we need to adapt to the current situation of remote feedback. 

Use these tips from Emotional Intelligence Expert Dr. JP Pawliw-Fry to navigate tough conversations and give important feedback while still feeling connected through a computer screen.

Don’t leave off the last 8% of the conversatio

You walk into a one-on-one meeting with the intention to clear the air, make an important point, or give some tough feedback. When you leave you feel like things went well, you said what you had to say, and the future is looking positive. Only to find your grievance (whatever it may be) is still continuing the very next day. You’re shocked because you thought the two of you came to an agreement and you were heard. 

If you felt like you both left the meeting with a new understanding only to see it fall flat immediately, you probably didn’t have the conversation you thought you did. 

Dr. Pawliw-Fry, has spent years studying what differentiates high performers from the average joe and has found that the average person will leave off the last 8% of their tough conversation. That’s the important part—the part where you actually make the ask or deliver the feedback. 

Many people giving feedback talk around an issue and believe their point was clear, and many people receiving feedback will try to justify their actions and make excuses. This leads to a disconnect where nothing is resolved. When giving feedback, spelling it out, saying the hard part, being direct is the only way to move forward into a place of understanding.  

We often leave out the 8% in a normal office setting and our hesitation to speak up is only heightened when we can’t read the person through a computer screen. Here are some small hacks to help you approach virtual feedback with a strong, concise, yet understanding message. 

  • Bullet-point your conversation and keep it on a notepad in front of you (but off-screen). The beauty of virtual conferencing is how prepared you can be while still coming off as natural and approachable. Write out the last 8% of your conversation and don’t say your goodbyes until it’s said.
  • Express your empathy clearly. It is a tough time right now for everyone, so be sure to be understanding and empathetic going into the conversation. And more importantly, make sure they know you are. 
  • Reiterate your takeaways. Throughout the conversation, when your counterpart explains how they’re feeling, a justification, or any big point, be sure to reiterate what they said so they know you understand. This will also encourage them to do the same. Then, when you get to your 8%, hopefully they will explicitly tell you they understand. 
  • Summarize the big points. Even though giving feedback can be tough, it’s important you summarize your feedback at the end of the conversation. This will open up the floor to any unasked questions and will help clarify anything that may have been talked around. 

Giving tough feedback is never a fun task, but it’s necessary to build stronger, more cohesive teams. Don’t let COVID-19 sit in the way of a productive conversation. Use these tips to say whatever it is you need to say in any setting.

Related: How to Develop Your Thought Leadership Strategy