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Connect Before You Correct

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Giving difficult feedback is something most of us avoid. It is often uncomfortable for everyone involved and frankly, most of us aren’t very effective at getting our message across in a way that doesn’t make people feel defensive.

That is why I want to offer a very useful concept that can help in these situations. It’s called “Connect Before You Correct.”  It’s a tool that you may have heard of in regards to disciplining children, but I find it to to be applicable in any kind of relationship. You can use this tool in relationships with coworkers, friends, or romantic partners when giving difficult feedback or having a hard conversation.

Using “Connect Before You Correct” with Your Partner

One of the most important aspects of “Connect Before You Correct” is to remember that it is so important in these uncomfortable discussions to make the other person feel valued, understood, and heard.

Imagine this scenario: Your significant other often takes a long time to get ready for events and consistently makes you late. It could be easy to say “I can’t stand that you’re always late! I’m leaving without you!” But what if you took a moment to connect with your partner in a more gentle, loving way? You could try saying something like “I love you so much and this doesn’t change that at all, but I don’t love the fact that you’re always late. So from now on I’m going to have to leave without you if you’re not ready on time.”

Why is this more effective? To start, you’re reassuring your partner that you love them and will continue to love them. This puts them at ease, making them more open to hearing what you have to say. Then from that place of openness, you’re setting a boundary that you’re not going to tolerate that behavior anymore. The connection is preserved before you offer the correction.

Using “Connect Before You Correct” in the Office

Let’s talk about how this might look in a professional environment. Imagine that you have an employee that is constantly missing deadlines. You might be tempted to avoid talking to them about the issue, especially if they’re contributing quality work. However, if you avoid the conversation the work will likely continue to be late.

Instead of avoiding the problem, you could say something like this: “I really value your contribution to our team. Your ideas are so creative and your work is top notch.  But, you continue to miss deadlines. That’s just not going to work for the team, so what can I do to support you to make sure this doesn’t happen again?”  When you start off by making your employee feel valued they are more receptive to your feedback.

Moving Forward with Effective Communication

As you can see, it’s really pretty simple. Even when you are feeling frustrated with someone, they need to know that you still care about them and want to preserve the relationship. Everyone wants to feel that they have value, especially in situations where they are receiving feedback about behavior that they need to change.

So here’s my challenge to you: Try thinking about places in your life where you are not using the “connect before you correct” philosophy. What can you do today to have more effective communication in uncomfortable situations? I’d love to hear how you implemented this tool!

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