Giving Feedback

How can you give feedback that doesn’t pack such a painful punch? Great feedback helps the receiver move past their knee-jerk, defensive reaction (“I’ve worked so hard, how could there be anything left to improve?”) and onto determination and action (“I’m a work in progress, I’m glad I know what I need to do to get better”).

Here are our three tips for giving feedback:

  1. Focus on specific behavior. Vague criticism is useless and makes it easy for the receiver to fall down the “I did a bad thing, therefore I am bad” rabbit hole. Consider these two state- ments:

Your email could have been better.

The second sentence in your email restated the first and should be deleted.

The first is ambiguous and demoralizing. The second points to a specific issue, which makes it harder to take personally, and gives the recipient a clear directive on how to improve.

  1. Make it about bridging the gap. Don’t simply criticize— suggest a different way of doing things and explain how it will benefit the person. Wharton professor Cade Massey recommends positioning feedback as bridging the gap: identify where you want the other person to be, give them clear advice on how to get there, and (most importantly) emphasize you believe they have the ability to bridge that gap. Try starting with this sentence: “I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations of you and I’m confident you can reach them.”

  2. Remember: how you say it matters. The best way to avoid hurting the other person’s feelings is to ask how and when they prefer to receive feedback. Don’t treat others how you want to be treated, treat them how they want to be treated. “Whether your advice comes from a place of caring is not measured at your mouth but at the other person’s ear,” Kim Scott, author of Radical Candor, told us. Watch: Kim Scott’s Radical Candor

Constructive feedback examples**: 4-step guide**

Getting Feedback:

When a colleague sees you make a mistake, her first thought is usually, “Should I say some- thing?” You want the answer to be a resounding yes.

Here are a few tips on how to handle criticism without spiralling into a self-loathing:

Remind yourself that you need critical feedback to improve. The instant gratification of praise feels so good that we often willingly trade learning opportunities for easy successes that reinforce our positive self-image. But adopting a growth mindset allows you to view criticism as a chance to get better— and make it more likely you get promoted.

Ask someone who knows what they’re talking about.

When we need help, we tend to prioritize trustworthiness and accessibility over expertise. But studies show feedback only helps us improve when it comes from an expert. Use the word “what” instead of “any.” If you ask “Do you have any feedback on how my presentation went?” the person can easily default to saying no. If you instead ask, “What could I improve about my presentation?” you invite specific feedback.

Remind yourself the person is giving you advice to help you.

“A friend tells you that you have food on your face,” writes Genius CEO Tom Lehman. “A non-friend doesn’t give you the bad news because they don’t want to feel uncomfortable!”