Giving and Taking Feedback — The Right Way!

Feedback is inescapable, but a necessary route to self-improvement. Feedback is generally seen in a negative light, which is unfortunate since proper feedback, given the right way, does wonders to boost the self-esteem of the person you give it to.

Before we get into how to give proper feedback and positively take negative feedback, I wanted to understand what it is that makes “feedback” challenging. And it was quite a surprising fact to learn that the resistance to feedback is something that goes deeper than emotions.

This resistance runs through us from the time we used to run from predators in the wild. It is something our brains have evolved to protect us from harm. This is very unfortunate for an employee since we now know that it is not the message or the criticism that he feels negative towards; rather, it is a more primal instinctive threat to his livelihood that causes the resistance, especially if the feedback he receives is negative.

“What hurts most in negative feedback, then, isn’t the overt content of the message so much as the threat of exclusion, abandonment, and ostracism that accompanies it,” explains Karen Wright in Psychology Today.

So what constitutes “negative” feedback? If you are giving feedback to someone under the following conditions, chances are you’re giving negative feedback:

  • To defend your behavior (or) excuse your behavior
  • To appease someone else (putting someone down in front of a third person or people by giving them” feedback”)
  • When you’re in a bad mood
  • To make yourself seem superior

Now that we have the negatives of giving feedback, how do you give feedback that doesn’t make people feel threatened, instead makes them feel motivated to do better? The right reasons to give feedbacks comes down to:

  • Feeling a sense of responsibility towards the person you give the feedback to
  • To guide or mentor the person
  • To support the person
  • Commitment or concern towards the person

Just having the right reasons to give feedback does not mean the feedback will be received well or will be effective in productivity. So how do we make it effective?

  1. Be specific, timely, and meaningful about what you say

Specific: The feedback has to be crisp and to-the-point with a business focus, rather than something generic.

Timely: Timing is everything when giving feedback. It has to be within the window of rectification.

Meaningful: The feedback should contain meaningful information on how to rectify the problem and do better, rather than just meaningless criticism.

2. Give feedback with future goals in the target

As mentioned earlier, feedback is effective only when it is within the window of rectification. Therefore, we need to understand that feedback should not be given with the past challenges in mind, rather, on how we can overcome those challenges to achieve a future goal.

3. Don’t be afraid of giving feedback

Reading the negative effects of feedback would make one think it’s better to not give any feedback at all. However, this would ruin the trust within the team by placing unnecessary emphasis on simple feedback. Executives and managers often deal with such situations all the time in meetings and conferences and thus know how important, valuable feedback is, and exactly how harmful withholding it would be, which brings us to the next point.

4. Ease the news

If you’re afraid of giving criticism, you can ease the process by making them aware of the fact that the feedback is about the procedure of getting optimal work done, and not about them.

One of the worst things you can do when giving feedback is letting your emotions come into play. Positive feedback is all about the action and not the person.

Another mistake people make when giving feedback is to praise enthusiastically, which could have the opposite effect of what is desired.

Keep it simple, professional, and informational.

5. Don’t assume you’re always right

Giving positive feedback doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re right. Feedback is always about conflicting views and how things can be done differently from various perspectives. Therefore, there should always be room for feedback to be refuted. Try to see the other person’s perspective first, and if you still don’t agree with it, help them see your perspective.

Feedback is still quite scary. Everyone wants people to tell them that they’ve done an excellent job, not the opposite. It’s precisely why feedback can be a hard pill to swallow. However, when we understand the fact that without it and the criticism from others, we can never grow.

We would not be able to develop ourselves, discover new versions of ourselves without getting the right feedback from the people around us.

Entrepreneur by profession and inspirer by passion. A life coach to help people realize their dreams.