Give the Gift of Feedback

You may have heard the phrase “Feedback is a gift”, but more often than not it’s a gift we didn’t ask for and one we don’t want. But being able to give and receive feedback in open and respectful ways can be a tremendous gift to our friends, family, and colleagues.

For most of us, giving or receiving feedback isn’t comfortable, but with a little practice feedback can be a powerful tool in creating a rich and safe culture where trust, influence, and rapport are deepened, acceptance of each others differences encouraged, and where people and teams can collaboratively navigate the challenging situations that are part of working and living together.

Here are some tips that we find helpful to remember:

Feedback is not advice or criticism Feedback is about observable behavior and its impact on people and situations.

Be clear about intent and impact. For example, you may think that someone’s intent is to be disrespectful by showing up late to a meeting or a lunch date, but what you can only truly know is the impact this has on you.
Pause before giving and responding to feedback. As Victor Frankel said “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Be curious about the emotions that come up when giving and receiving feedback, and be compassionate towards yourself and others. Curiosity and compassion bring clarity to any situation.

Give positive feedback, not just critical feedback. As our friend and colleague Ed Bastia writes: “Strong relationships depend on heartfelt positive feedback.”

Practice. Feedback is a skill, and like any skill, it takes practice to get better. So start small, be ok with it being awkward, and celebrate your small wins. As the authors of the HBR article, The Power of Small Wins report, there is power in small acts and in regular practice. “Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions…the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.”

Some of the most rewarding and meaningful work that we do with our clients is around feedback — our clients tell us that their relationships, both personal and professional, are strengthened because of this work. We’re social creatures, and good relationships are at the heart of our of success and happiness.

Happy Holidays,


Our workshops, programs and coaching approaches are rooted in a combination of concepts derived from the work we’ve done with leaders and organizations, the Interpersonal Dynamics course at the Stanford Graduate School of Business where my partner Kevin Martin has facilitated for many years, Daniel Goleman’s work around Emotional Intelligence, John Gottman’s research in emotional flooding and relationships, and mindfulness exercises from Jon Kabbot Zinn that help us pay attention to what our bodies are telling us about our emotional and interior selves. You can read more about our work here.

Here are some more ways to give:

Mercy Corps
Feed America
One Simple Wish

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