Team Communication Exercise: Constructive Feedback

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Replacing But…

The purpose of this team communication exercise is for participants to learn how easily the word “but” can interfere with constructive feedback by creating defensiveness, even when they mean well. They will also learn to replace “but” with “and.”

Use this practice when:

  • Feedback is not being received very well.
  • Individuals feel like others are not listening with open minds.
  • You don’t have prep time and/or materials for anything more elaborate.

Here’s how:

  • Have participants pair up.
  • Each participant has 30 seconds to think of something she likes about the other’s outfit and one way the outfit could be improved.
  • The first participant tells the other what she likes first, then says, “but. . .” and finishes the sentence with how it could be even better.
  • The other participant then does the same to the first participant.
  • Now have each participant repeat what she just said, replacing ”but” with “and.”

For example:

  • “I like that tie, but it would bring out your blue eyes better if it was red.”
  • “I like that tie, and it would bring out your blue eyes better if it was red.”
  • “That is a nice dress, but you would look even more professional if you had earrings, too.”
  • “That is a nice dress, and you would look even more professional if you had earrings, too.

Ask these questions:

  • How did it feel to hear “but?” (Annoying, defensive, insincere, etc.) How did it feel to hear “and?” (Helped, respected, supported, etc.)
  • What does “but” usually mean? (Disregard what you just heard, because here is the real truth.)
  • Why do we say “but” so often when giving suggestions or feedback?
  • What implications does this have for us back on the job?

Tips for success:

  • Share an example to give participants a sense of how the statements should sound.
  • Make sure all pairs have finished their “but” statements before giving the cue to make the “and” statements.
  • Point out that the word “but” usually negates everything that precedes it.

Try these variations:

  • The more personal the feedback, the better. If the group is uncomfortable giving feedback on each other’s outfits though, select something else, such as the coffee in the lunchroom, a movie they have both seen, and so forth.
  • After the meeting, ask for feedback on the meeting without the “but.” (I liked that we had an agenda, and next time I hope we can stick to it better.)
  • If the group is comfortable giving feedback to each other already, have them do it on their recent job performance rather than their outfit.
  • Add an element of fun to this activity by starting with participants making something creatively (with clay, markers, balloons, building blocks, etc.), and then give the feedback to each other about the creation rather than their outfits.

 

Source: Miller, Brian. Quick Team-Building Activities for Busy Managers. New York: AMACOM, 2004. Print.

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