SARAH, Queen of Feedback

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One of the undoubted skills of the effective people management is the ability to deliver structured, useful feedback. More on this skill appears on the Latest Article tab for this blog, but not matter how skillfully the feedback is delivered, we can never fully legislate for the recipient’s reaction and this is where the SARAH acronym can be useful as it at least enables us to predict likely responses to difficult feedback. It stands for:

Shock

Anger

Rationalisation

Acceptance

Help

Here’s an example using that most tricky of feedback situations: telling someone that they smell.

You can follow the rules of good feedback and say something like, “I have noticed the smell of body odour, and I’m concerned that it is having an impact on your ability to interact with your colleagues and our customers.”

The reaction could probably go:

  • Tears, embarrassment, shame (shock)
  • “How dare you” or similar (anger)
  • “You’re picking on me”, “Ethel smells, but I bet you haven’t spoken to her”, “The air conditioning in this office is terrible, I never had this problem at me last place” and so on (Rationalisation)
  • “Actually you’re right, and I’ve been suffering from this for some time, I just don’t know what to do” (Acceptance)
  • “What am I going to do?” (Help)

Of course, a written version of this sort of conversation can never convey the subtleties of what would happen in reality, but a recognition of the stages people go through before willing to work on difficult feedback can be very useful.

Matt Somers

Matt Somers

Matt Somers is the UK’s leading trainer of managers as coaches. His coaching skills training programmes, books, articles and seminars have helped thousands of managers achieve outstanding results through their people.

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