“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t being said.”
— Author Unknown
When you hear the word ‘evaluation’ you may think of what a coach gives to a player, or what a manager delivers annually to an employee, but it’s really something we all do.
Everyday of our lives, we give feedback. It could be to a colleague, a client, a family member, a friend, a neighbor, a boss, or even a community leader. It’s all of those because feedback is rooted in opinion which is something we all have and give.
Blurting out an opinion is easy, but rarely very effective. Learning to give quality feedback doesn’t just come naturally. Giving a motivational evaluation takes education and practice, but it can be done. And done well.
In Toastmasters, a public speaking organization dedicated to helping people improve their communication and leadership skills, every speaker at a meeting is assigned an evaluator. That evaluator then listens to the speech and gives his or her feedback, offering positive suggestions for improvement as well as identifying what he or she thinks the speaker did well. The goal is to motivate the speaker to want to improve.
Evaluation has been called the crux of Toastmasters because it combines four essential communication skills – listening, observation, organization, and impromptu-speaking.
- Listening – Learning to listen well means not just hearing. It means actively listening to how the speaker says something, not just what they say. It means identifying what is well-said and not-said.
- Observation - Watching a speaker’s body language, gestures, facial expressions, and physical movements identify what is being said subconsciously. That subconscious communication plays a huge role in how a message is received.
- Organization – Starting an evaluation with a compliment helps put the speaker at ease so they will be more receptive to the your opinion. Then giving feedback that’s well-structured with clear and specific points for improvement help drive home what the evaluator feels can be done.
- Impromptu-Speaking - Evaluations are done with little time for preparation, so the evaluator is forced to organize their thoughts quickly and deliver them with impact.
Those four skills translate to our day-to-day conversations as well.
Listening to a child is tantamount to understanding a child. And understanding a child is key to unlocking their inner motivation.
Observation helps us know better how to deliver our opinions to a colleague when they ask for our help, and how to identify what specifically can be improved about their project.
Organization of thought helps us deliver the most relevant and concise feedback possible in order to maintain the attention of our listener. A busy spouse may not want to hear our long soliloquy while she’s rushing out the door to work.
Impromptu-speaking is what we do everyday with everyone we meet. Getting better at that will help us learn to express ourselves and market our business in ways that motivate the listener to want to know more.
After practicing your evaluation skills, you will be surprised at how much more you know about giving feedback and how much better you will have become at giving it.
That improvement will be found in the realization that how you tell someone something is as important than what you tell them. Your words, your tone, your body language all speak at the same time, and with practice you can learn to deliver a positive, specific, and motivational message that inspires.
Evaluation is an everyday part of our lives. If you haven’t checked out a Toastmasters meeting before, I encourage you to do so. You’ll find not only opportunities to learn to speak publicly and to practice leadership, but you’ll get to hear people practicing their evaluation skills.
Great feedback is a gift of your time. Learning to improve our skill at delivering motivational feedback will have a great impact not just on our listener … but on ourselves.
Yesterday’s gift of time … Gave a first-time speaker an evaluation at a Silicon Forest Toastmasters meeting, then presided over a meeting of Feedbackers Toastmasters, an evaluation-focused Toastmasters’ club.
If you’re in the Portland, Oregon metro area, feel free to stop by either of my Toastmasters clubs. You can find more information at the above links.