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Why and how to give constructive feedback

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Source: anon

As per requested after my article on the importance of feedback, this one covers why you should always give constructive feedback, and some tips to help you do it.

In this context, we are talking about all feedback in general, whether it’s about someone’s personality, someone’s work, or anything else. It applies to any aspect of your life when you communicate with others.

Constructive feedback gets the word accross

Feedback generally is a cause for change, and our reflex towards change is to be either scared or reluctant of doing it which is why the approach you use when giving feedback as a strong impact on the receiver’s reaction.

By staying constructive, the receiver will listen more, and will avoid going on the defensive. Therefore, your message has a much better chance of being taken seriously, and you will not enter into a never-ending debate.

Few tips

  • 1. Stay positive: Avoid insults or anything that might make the receiver feel bad. For example, avoid any speech that sounds like “You do this wrong so….” or “You messed up, next time…”. All those words bring absolutely nothing to your message, so just don’t use them. You still have to get your message across so you can’t sugar-coat it too much, just be careful on the words you use.
  • 2. One-on-one: Depending of the nature of the feedback, consider giving it when you’re alone with receiver. Therefore, you will avoid any pressure the presence of others add, and the receiver will be more open. Some people are too proud and may deny everything while others listen so by talking alone with them, you’ll get them to listen.
  • 3. Everyone is different: Know the people you give feedback to. Some are open, some are less, so you may have to vary your approach between “Simple direct honesty” to “Very gentle”. If you haven’t had the chance to get to know the receiver, then be gentle, and adapt the conversation depending of how the receiver reacts. If you feel that the receiver goes into the defensive, quickly change your approach to disengage, or you may have to stop altogether to prevent frustration or waste of time.
  • 4. Aim at what the receiver wants: Although this tip is good to consider in every type of communication, it still applies very well here. The trick is to concentrate your words around what the receiver will gain rather than anyone else. For example, you could use the team approach like “If you do it that way, others will like your code more.”, but the receiver will be more receptive if you turn it around for him only like “You will have a much better time using your own code if you do it that way instead.”. Try thinking about what the receiver wants, and turn your feedback around that. It may be tricky at first, but it becomes easier as you try it.
  • 5. Be clear: Explain the feedback, whether it’s by giving a simple explanation, or using specific examples. Avoid saying “Don’t use too much blue.” and turn it around like “If you use more orange, you’ll add contrast and visibility.”. If the message is understood, chances are, it will be taken into account. However, if it’s too vague or completely unclear, the receiver won’t know how to change, or won’t be motivated to do it, or worst, may even feel irritated.
  • 6. Ask the receiver how he feels: Giving feedback must be a conversation and not a one-way street. Ask the receiver what he thinks of the feedback, and how he feels. It will get him to open up and discuss, and you may even come to an understanding better than what you hoped for. Some people will give their opinion without asking, but some have a hard time speaking, so give them a chance to talk, make it easy for them.

In conclusion

Giving feedback is important, and how you give it is just as important. Avoid blaming others for a lack of openness if you do not pay attention to how you give feedback. Adapt your approach to the person and context, and you will get your messages across.

Feel free to share more tips or discussions you had.

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