#DontSweatIt | How to give Feedback
Do you know the right way to give feedback to a person?
How often have you stopped yourself from giving feedback to someone thinking you might hurt their feelings?
How often did you experience a negative response from the person whom you gave feedback?
Do you struggle to get your actual intentions across to the person you’re giving feedback?
A lot has to be taken into consideration before you actually go and give feedback to somebody.
Here are 3 principles to follow in order to excel at the art of giving feedback. Yes, giving feedback to someone is an art. So, let’s begin.
First, you need to do a quick reality check by asking yourself whether this person is actually looking for feedback or this person is only around to seek attention? There are people who come to you just for attention because they like you and look up to you as a person. For them, victory is just finding your time.
Most people are very afraid of being vulnerable publicly. Most people are very unlikely to come and ask for feedback. If somebody is really looking for feedback, you can see it in their eyes where their need to improve upon themselves is fairly apparent. In case you suspect this person’s motives, it’s safe to ask them as to why do they want this feedback, and observe the clarity with which they come back. If they fumble or seem to be giving socially desirable answers, you may choose not to deliver your feedback, thereby discouraging the development of a bad habit in them.
If this person asking for feedback is genuine then you have a responsibility. You may break it into three parts:
Your feedback is going to be an experience for the person receiving it.
If done well, it can be a life-altering one. It’s going to be a bookmark that is going to be placed in the middle of the leaves of the pages of someone’s life. Your feedback could either break this person or make this person. Hence, we need to be careful.
You must ask yourself, as a feedback provider,
“What about the experience you want this person to go back with the most?”
“Do you want this person to go home feeling completely devastated and that there was nothing good about what he did?”
“Do you want this person to go back with a much more objective analysis of what was done according to you and what could have been done according to you?
#1 Balance out your feedback with both pros and cons, and start with the pros first.
Don’t say just bad things or just good things. Keep it real. Start your feedback process with luring this person in. Avoid starting off with completely negative stuff or you’re going to remind this person of some of the harshest, most negative, toxic people that this person has ever encountered, and you might end up shutting off this person.
Another scenario could be that this person may just go home feeling completely disheartened and daunted. They may find themselves worthless because there was nothing good about them in your feedback. Most of them seeking feedback are very likely to be in an impressionable stage in the development of their careers, in the development of their journeys, in the early stages of their paths. Therefore, a lot of care needs to be exercised in how you talk to them. So, be honest and objective while giving feedback to them.
For example: “There are four things that I liked about you. These are the six things that might require a little bit of work.”
Have respect in how you talk to them. Heraclitus said, “Nothing is permanent but change.” So, what you think to be the absolute gospel truth today, might not be true tomorrow. What you think to be a universal truth, might not be applicable to everyone and might not be held as everyone’s opinion. So, let’s use more mights and avoid the shoulds. Give them granularity by telling them the why behind every part of your feedback.
#2 Throw in disclaimers seeking a benefit of doubt for your opinion.
Say things like-
“I could be wrong.”
“This is just my opinion.”
“‘In my humble opinion, …”
“This could just be one episode of me thinking this way.”
At the end of your feedback, this person should not think that he/she has created a reputation in your mind about something negative that you pointed out. Avoid using absolutes. For example, how to give feedback to someone who took a long pause in a 4-minute speech-
Wrong: “Why do you always do this?”
Right: “I noticed that there was this one time when you took a long pause before you said something, it seemed to me that whilst you may have been thinking, it came across to me that you may have been underconfident at that moment.”
You don’t want that person to go home regretting her/his/their decision of asking feedback from you.
You don’t want this person to go home with very low self-esteem.
You don’t want this person to go home with the fear that this person might have created a negative reputation for herself/himself/themselves.
#3 Allow them to walk away with a choice, without feeling obliged to follow your feedback.
If they don’t follow your feedback, they should not have to fear/avoid you. Let there be a tomorrow in the relationship that you have with this person so that they can meet you with a smile and say, “Hey that thing you pointed out that day, I’m happy that you did. I’m still wondering how that can be applicable to my situation, and I will come back to you whenever I figure that out.” Let there be that much positivity in the care between the two of you. A lot of people are very dismissive in the way they give feedback.
Delivering feedback is the art that every human being should know how to possess. Especially, parents, teachers, peers, and anyone who communicates with another person. It’s very important to be humane about this process because the other person is being fairly great and extraordinary in being one of the few people who have the humility and an evolutionary instinct to ask for feedback. Such people could have chosen not to involve you in their journey. So, remember to thank them for finding you worthy of being spoken to.