Some people are hyper-sensitive to just about any feedback or criticism.
When receiving feedback, they react defensively and strongly, often displaying obvious distaste for whatever is being shared. This defensive posture makes it extremely difficult for anyone to offer any suggestion or idea they might interpret as criticism. Over time, their extreme reactions create a chilling effect on what they hear from others.
The hyper-sensitive simply filter or avoid feedback that would be easily accepted by most of us. They inadvertently train those around them to tread carefully so as to avoid their harsh reactions. This means they don’t receive the feedback and criticism that they need to make them better.
They end up performing in a vacuum of highly-edited communication designed not to set them off. Not surprisingly, they become monsters of their own making. Soon, just about everyone avoids telling them anything of substance.
When the relationship rule of no or little feedback becomes established, everyone loses. Performance issues, disagreements, conflict, and retrospective learning all get swept under the rug.
For true leaders, this reality cannot stand. Walking on eggshells to avoid a strong reaction must become an unacceptable way to engage.
Some strong reactors thrive by controlling what others will, or won’t, say to them. They like the feeling of power they experience through their reactions.
Others who create this chilling effect on feedback are less aware and don’t recognize the dysfunctional pattern they have created. In either case, the hyper-sensitive party must be confronted or they will adversely affect almost every interaction they participate in.
Giving someone feedback about how they receive feedback can be dicey, but that is the task at hand.
No single conversation is likely to create much change. The key is to put the strong reactor on notice, explain to them the chilling effect they have created, and then insist on giving them feedback regardless of their response.
This must be an ongoing effort.
Coordinating this with others is equally important. Encouraging others to have the same conversation and to push through their discomfort of giving feedback allows the hyper-sensitive party to fully grasp the issue and come to grips with it. Slowly over time, everyone involved creates a new pattern where reactions are less intense and the chilling effect weakens.
When confronted with the reality that the relationship can’t continue if the hyper-sensitivity doesn’t dissipate, even bad actors will begin to modify their behavior. When it comes to those who handily reject all feedback, taking the chill off is what leaders do.
Useful post today. I made a card for this one. It will help me with a person that is not quite this bad, but when I ask for updates, I immediately get, "I've already fixed that!" or, "It's been taken care of!" and I have to pause and explain that I'd like to discuss what's been done.