On Giving Feedback

Giving feedback is one of the easiest things to do, and one of the hardest to master. To give feedback, all you need is an opinion. To give really good feedback you need to not only to understand the problem, but deliver you thoughts in a way that will be valued. No one likes to be criticized.

I used to think I was great at giving feedback until I started at Etsy. After my first couple of meetings I quickly came to see my feedback for the rambling, opinionated mess that it was. While I was busy jumping in to offer ideas, the other designers were sitting back and listening, and after some consideration, would deliver feedback that was clear, informative and to the point. More than this though, is that the feedback was energizing. When it was my work being critiqued, it made me excited to push my design and thinking forward.

Part of this is learning how deliver your ideas in an approachable way, which I strongly believe relies on having an empathetic relationship with your team. I think it is important to realize that while you may have a strong reaction to an idea, all ideas come from a place of trying to do the right thing, and that an outwardly negative or dismissive reaction can not only reduce the capacity for collaboration, it can discourage others from opening sharing their thoughts in the future. Worse, it can make them apprehensive to do so.

We should always stand up for the ideas we believe to be true, but blindly arguing your point is not only counter-productive, it devalues the weight of your future input. And while it is good to have your ideas challenged, criticizing is not the same as being critical, and confrontation should never be mistaken for collaboration.

Cross-posted from aaronmoodie.com