Giving and Receiving Feedback is a Delicate Art
Feedback is a lifelong process we need. From the time we are babies we receive information about what happens when we act a certain way. When you cry, your diaper gets changes, or you get fed. As you toddle around, you learn that hot things hurt, and the family pet might bite when provoked. During formative years, you learn feedback measures performance by earning grades and awards. In the working world, we learn from the feedback other people give us to improve our habits, skills, and revenue-generating potential.
“Good feedback is the key to improvement.” — Unknown
“Negative feedback can make us bitter or better.” — Robin S. Sharma
How do you give and receive feedback in a way that it can be heard and used well? Let’s dive in.
Was it requested?
Whether feedback was requested frames the ability to which you get to speak it. If someone asks for feedback, the person is open to hearing growth potential. That knowledge alone is helpful. Be constructive, especially if your feedback wasn’t requested. Go carefully in the framing of your suggestions. They may or may not be welcome. Do you know something the other person doesn’t know? If so, this may be a good approach: I learned something recently and wanted to share it with you; is that okay?
The answer to that question will help define parameters for the sharing of ideas. If your goal is to improve performance or aid in learning, your motives need to be trustworthy. Your credibility also matters.
Are you a reliable source?
More importantly, does the person trust you? Do you have expertise in a specific area that gives you more insight than someone else? If the answer is no on one or both counts, you may not be the right person to offer suggestions. If the answer is yes to one of those questions, you have an opportunity to help someone. Trust in the person, the advice they offer, or the information itself, is essential to getting your ideas heard.
How do you frame feedback?
One model is to build a sandwich. Think of it like eating a club sandwich. Maybe it’s too big to eat in one bite. Ever tried to stretch your mouth over a sandwich that’s too big to fit? Eat it in layers to make digestion easier. Offer a mix of positive and negative feedback in layers. Everyone likes a pat on the back, so start with something they are doing well, then share something they can improve upon. Keep building the sandwich one layer at a time by following this method.
Glow and grow is a similar method. Perhaps there are one or two growth points worth making. State what’s going well and then make a shift. One thing I’d like to see done differently is… Offer the growth area and possible steps for improvement.
If your feedback is situational, be sure to stick to the situation. Lay the framework, zero in on specific behaviors, share how they impact others, and what you’d like to see done differently next time.
The best feedback is not a monologue; it is an open conversation.
Is feedback biased or judgmental?
If there is a bias in the feedback, it may not be feedback at all, but possibly a judgment. Do you take pride in “telling it like is” or “bringing the other person down a few pegs”? Examine your motives before offering feedback. A hard-talking point delivered with empathy can be provided and received well if it is delivered within a useful framework. Giving negative feedback is necessary, but it doesn’t have to be done to damage relationships and connections.
Have you been on social media lately? There’s dissension across platforms. It’s easy to get sucked in unless you guard yourself against negativity. Most disagreements exist between people who don’t know each other and are among those who have strong opinions. You can have strong opinions and deliver them without being divisive.
Ask yourself this question: Are you strengthening resolve or diminishing trust?
If your feedback is inaccurate or ill-advised it will not be as effective as it could otherwise be.
Pick a framework that meets the goals you are trying to accomplish.
What makes feedback trustworthy?
Suggestions that are reliable and accurate make people want to take action. Whether your opinions are objective or not, can make a difference in how they are received. Feedback should be unbiased as much as possible. Even unsolicited feedback can be a motivator when used to improve performance.
Do you build people up?
Feedback is an open conversation. The listener has an active role too. Listen to understand, Dr. Stephen Covey is famously noted as saying. All parties have an obligation to be understanding, even more than be understood if the feedback is to be open and valuable. Above all, it should build people up and not leave them demoralized.
Do you give good feedback in artful ways? Build someone up today.