There isn’t a single person on the planet that couldn’t stand to get better at what they do. Whether they are a writer in Billings, Montana, or a professional athlete in New York City; we can all use feedback in various areas of our lives. There is a right and a wrong way to giving feedback. The right way can encourage and promote growth; the wrong way is toxic and leads to further negative performance. Take a few minutes to learn some of the tips on the right way to give feedback so that those you are helping are actually helped.
Define Your Intentions as to Why You’re Giving Feedback
If I went to a live performance, and I didn’t like it, I could fill out a comment card that said, “This play sucks.” The cast may read it and scratch their heads. They would then take two courses of action: ignore the feedback and keep doing what they are doing, or become irritated and quit the industry. More than likely an anonymous letter such as that would be ignored.
Before giving feedback to anyone, make it clear as to why you are giving that feedback. Have you been in their shoes and you understand how to make thing better? Do you think they could reach a broader audience? Is your happiness dependent on their success? Make sure the recipient knows that you are not attacking them and their actions, but rather encouraging them to grow in their skill.
I like How You…
People want to know that what they are doing is well received. If you sit down with someone and explain all the places where they failed, they will never grow. Instead, set the stage by telling the aspects about their work, performance, or actions that you like. For instance, giving feedback on a live performance would be much better received if you talked about how you liked the incorporation of Shakespearean dialogue into a modern play, but you feel it would be better received if they updated the language slightly so more people could understand what was being said. The deeper you can get with the “I like” statement, the more weight your suggestions will have. Thus, “I liked your costume, but the rest of the play was boring” won’t go over quite as well.
Specifics are Key to Giving Feedback
As with the intentions example, that type of feedback only fosters insecurity. You have to be specific. This goes both for positive feedback, and negative. If I write an amazing piece that gets published in Forbes and the only feedback I ever receive is “Good job!” I will never be able to grow. Likewise, if I write that piece and I only hear, “This is terrible!” I will never be able to grow. When you are giving feedback include specifics so the recipient knows what should change and what worked well.
Make it About the Work, not the Person
If the recipient feels attacked, your feedback is meaningless. They will become defensive and shut down and rationalize what they are doing. Instead, focus on the work at hand rather than the one doing the work. For instance, if someone writes a report that is loaded with grammatical errors, it would be easy to say, “You’re a terrible writer.” Attacking them without specifics makes them resent you and they will keep doing what they are doing. If you tell them, “The grammar in your report is atrocious” they will still resent you, but at least they will know what to change. But if you approach them with, “I liked the content, you included all the important aspects, but can you edit it a little more closely? There were some grammatical errors that interrupted the flow making it hard to read.” This type of feedback is specific, it points to the flow of the work rather than the skill of the writer, and it gives direction on exactly what they need to do to improve.
Giving Feedback that Helps
Giving feedback basically boils down to your interpersonal skills. If you just take the time to think, “How would I like someone to approach me on this?” and then think, “What is the recipient’s personality type?” you can effectively give helpful feedback. Of course, those receiving the feedback need to understand it’s not a personal attack (even if it is), and their reaction can make all the difference.
As a writer in Billings, Montana, I love to get feedback on my work. Do you have any tips on giving feedback? How do you do it so the individual feels encouraged rather than discouraged?