The TWEAK Method: How to Give Feedback So People Will Listen and Get Great Feedback In Return

Contrary to what many seminars and how-to books would have you believe, your skills will not improve in leaps and bounds, but rather in small but significant tweaks to your behavior. People truly trying to improve will understand this.

The TWEAK Method will:

  • Make sensitive people receptive to feedback
  • Identify the right people to give you feedback
  • Know when the wrong people are giving you feedback and wasting your time

Without further delay, the TWEAK Method!

Is It TRUE?

When it comes to getting feedback, we prefer to surround ourselves with yes-men and sugar-coaters, people who tell us we’re great and perfect and nothing needs changing, but for people truly seeking improvement, choosing flattery over fact is the kiss of death.

You want to choose someone who isn’t afraid to hurt your feelings, and this most likely means no family, friends, and significant others, unless they have no qualms about tearing you apart (like mine do, lucky me).

Typically, these people lie to us to spare our feelings and our relationships, and while this feels nice, it isn’t useful.

Keep in mind, a little sugarcoating is fine — it makes the bitter truth easier to swallow — but too much sugarcoating and you can’t taste the truth underneath.

Now, when it comes to giving someone else feedback, make sure you’re prepared to tell them the truth even if it hurts their feelings. If they truly want to improve, they’ll thank you for it (and we’ll talk about how not to be a dick about it in a second).

My Experience

When I used to get feedback on my writing, people held back for fear of hurting my feelings or discouraging me from continuing, but only when they were honest about what I needed to fix did I truly feel competent as a writer — suddenly, I knew I had solid support to help me become a bestselling author.

Wrap It In Positivity

Emotions are far more influential than facts when it comes to human behavior, which is why it’s important to wrap your criticism in positivity. Tell them what they did well, then tell them what they need to improve, and then tell them what they did well again.

It’s like a sandwich of self-improvement.

If you start with the negative, people tend to clam up and go on the defensive before you can tell them what they did well.

On the other hand, if you start with the positive and end with the negative, the negative emotions damage their motivation to continue.

But if you sandwich the negative between the positives, you can still convey the information they need to know while maintaining their emotional drive to continue.

Also, when it comes to the negatives, phrases like, “I feel like,” and “This could use some improvement” are your best friends. People will be much more receptive to these than if you flat out say it sucks.

Unfortunately, if you’re the one receiving feedback, the person might not know this trick so you’ll have to remind yourself of the positives on your own (or passive-aggressively share this article with them and tell them to try again).

My Experience

My most useful beta-readers use this tactic all the time and my sensitive writer heart loves them for it!

Evidence-Based

Anything that isn’t supported by fact is arbitrary. Throw it out. If someone says you suck and they can’t back it up, it doesn’t matter.

Of course, if someone says you’re great and they can’t back it up, that’s just as arbitrary and you have to throw it out too.

And I know it’s hard. When someone says you’re awesome, you don’t ask questions, you just accept it and cherish the feeling. But if you’re truly trying to improve, you need to know where you’re strong and where you’re weak.

When you give feedback to someone else, make sure you have evidence. Ask yourself why you believe what you believe. Is it truly a problem? Or is it just a feeling?

My Experience

I’ve had some people tell me, “I don’t like this story,” and they don’t support it with any facts. I toss this out without a second thought.

But when they say, “I think you could foreshadow a bit more at the beginning of the story to build the intensity at the end,” I listen up and take notes.

Ask, Always

When most people talk about a problem, they don’t want you to give them advice, they just want you to listen and say, “I’m sorry, that sucks.”

If you try to give these people unprompted feedback, you’ll be met with some form of, “Did I ask you?” and they’ll shut you out. So double check to make sure they’re looking for feedback before you give it to them — plus, if it’s harsh feedback, you have the added benefit of them literally asking for it.

Asking them if they want feedback first is crucial to making them receptive to what you have to say.

When it comes to receiving feedback from other people, all you have to do is ask. For the longest time I thought there was no one who would read my writing and give me feedback, but here’s a little not-so-secret secret: people love telling you their opinions.

Seriously. The booming blogging industry is built on millions of people who are throwing their opinions out there, most of the time for free (yeah, I know, I’m guilty too).

The gist is plenty of people out there are willing to help you improve your skills, you just have to ask.

My Experience

I used to keep my writing a secret because I was afraid if I told people about it, they’d say, “Who cares?” and then I’d feel like my passion wasn’t worth pursuing. But once I opened up and asked for feedback, I learned two things: one, I was actually a great writer, even the harshest critics said so, and two, there is never a shortage of people who want to tell you what they think of your work (for better or worse) and I improved even more!

Knowledgeability Is Key

When I volunteered as an assistant first grade teacher, my boss had me draw an umbrella on the whiteboard to give the students an idea of how to draw their own.

I drew a shitty umbrella, just a ‘J’ shape with an arch on top and a few arches on the underside, and the kids lost their minds. They thought I was Picasso. One kid stood on of his chair and gasped, “It’s like a masterpiece!”

And I felt great! These kids fed my ego and I ate it up like a king at a feast.

But if I wanted to be a master umbrella-drawer, would this feedback actually help me improve? Of course not.

And here’s the thing, by all accounts they could have followed the previous steps — asked me if I wanted feedback, then given me evidence-based, honest advice wrapped in positivity — but they didn’t know what they’re talking about.

If you really want to improve a skill, you should find someone who’s already skilled at it and ask them for feedback.

On the other hand, if you’re giving feedback, make sure you know what you’re talking about. You don’t want to be like one of those politicians who talks out their ass. You’re not helping anyone like that.

My Experience

As a writer, I have some beta readers who are my regular friends, and I value their opinions greatly, but I also have English teachers, avid readers and writers, and professional editors, look over my work. It’s not that my regular friends are unhelpful, I just need feedback from skilled people who really know what they’re talking about

Recap:

  • Tell the truth and make sure they do the same for you — lying doesn’t help
  • Wrap it in positivity to increase receptivity and motivation
  • Evidence-based, or toss it out
  • Ask for feedback and you shall receive
    Ask them if they want feedback to ensure receptivity
  • Knowledgeability is key

Once again, use the TWEAK Method to:

  • Make sensitive people receptive to feedback
  • Identify the right people to give you feedback
  • Know when the wrong people are giving you feedback and wasting your time

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