Giving and taking corrective feedback when High Cs/High Ds are involved
It strikes me that giving correcting feedback to High C/High Ds is not for the faint-hearted – you tend to get a very defensive response, and things can readily get out of hand if (like me) you’re HighD/High C yourself.
I know why it is, I think. High Cs tend to view the world as somewhere where there is always an objectively correct choice, which can be discovered if you are clever enough and do enough research. Also, we see the world as a place where there is always a correct procedure to prevent things going wrong. So to tell a High C that he or she has done something sub-optimally is by implication to tell them that they are stupid, lazy or disorganized. This is particularly mortifying for a group of people who tend to pride themselves on their intelligence, industry and organization.
High Ds don’t like to hear it either – we don’t see themselves as people who make mistakes, but do immediately see that our objectives and standing might be jeopardized if people think they have made mistakes.
So what tends to happen is you get a defensive response, in which the person tries to prove that they did the right thing, or were not to blame for things not going well. The explanation can be long, complicated and frustrating – High Cs tend to be good at raising up a logic thicket with which to prove that black is white or “you didn’t correctly infer the thing I was implying” (Oh, so it’s MY fault is it?)
A further problem, come to think about it, is that High Cs like to subject all proposals to a rigorous destructive analysis. You’ve just proposed an alternative to what they did, so naturally they take your idea, and subject it to a rigorous destructive analysis to see if it actually would have been better. Out loud, unfortunately. This takes time and looks like rejecting your suggestion…
Sometimes the High C person receiving feedback wants to tell you why they did what they did, or what the mitigating factors were – it can look like arguing back, but actually they have accepted your point and are coming to terms with it (I call this “retreating statements”, as they are covering what they probably see as a retreat). They don’t need you to come after them and “attack” them further. A colleague once had the wonderful idea that I should treat this like a commercial break – have to sit tight and listen to stuff that is of little relevance, before the interesting stuff starts again. With people you don’t know well, it is harder to tell whether you’re getting retreating statements or a full rebuttal. And you can get a very stubborn rebuttal - I recall being on a conference call a lot of which was consumed by a High C programmer’s complete inability to give a High D/High I executive a simple “I’m sorry that it didn’t go well”.
Unfortunately, while we can’t take corrective feedback, we High D/High Cs can certainly dish it out – we’re right (either based on objective analysis or on being us) and if you have another opinion you’re wrong, and what we now want to hear is you accepting this in a clear statement. Your resistance is illogical. This can lead to some tricky situations if both parties are High C/High D (a common situation in IT, say). Lots of energy can be wasted in proving a point.
I really don’t like getting correcting feedback myself, and so have to make an effort to choose how I behave in response. I try to say:
“Thank you for telling me that”
Because they are probably actually trying to help me improve…
“You’re saying it would have been better if I’d…..”
So they can see I’ve got the point (or so they have an opportunity to clarify if I haven’t)
“That’s a good point, I’ll definitely remember that”
Or something like that (even if I don’t agree with them they probably at least have a valid point of view on the matter).
Then there needs to be a pause (the pause is important!) before launching into anything else - an analysis of the downside of their suggestion, its merits and demerits c.f. what really happened, or the mitigating factors, or any retreating statements that I just can’t get by with keeping as an internal monologue. It goes better if they see you’ve got past the Shock, Anger, Rejection bit already and are able to discuss the Acceptance, Help bit.