6 Tips for Giving & Receiving Constructive Feedback

In: BlogDate: Mar 07, 2018By: Billy Burgess

Learning how to give and receive constructive feedback is an essential tool in both your personal and work life.

And yet, it scares people half to death just contemplating it – nobody likes to be told they’re wrong, and similarly, people don’t like being the bearer’s of bad news.

There is a big difference between constructive and destructive feedback, however, which we’re going to look at in this blog.

Here are our six tips for giving (and receiving) constructive feedback.

Criticism helps us understand others

If a co-worker, manager, customer or amateur fashion critic offers you some feedback, this will allow you to get a better picture of the things they value and the standards they’d like to see upheld.

Even if their feedback seems misguided or is delivered with an unnecessary sting, that doesn’t mean it should be disregarded. Nor does it mean we should respond defensively. By remaining patient and considering the crux of someone’s review, you can get a better understanding of how they think and improve communication going forward.

Negative feedback doesn’t need to be buffered by superfluous compliments
If you’re relating negative feedback to someone, then you’d better include plenty of niceties along the way, right? Well, not exactly. Protecting people’s self-esteem is a fair aim, but more often than not cushioning negative feedback with compliments isn’t constructive.

Given the flimsiness of this approach, the attempted positivity will often be transparent, causing the whole thing to smack of insincerity. Or else the person will choose only to hear the nice bits and digest none of the essential criticisms.

Give direct feedback and focus on the outcomes

I’m not saying it’s better to bellow angry feedback at someone before demanding their immediate disappearance. Rather, direct communication will be much more constructive – focusing on the possibility for change and improvement will reassure someone of your trust and belief in them.

For this to be effective, you need to be clear about what you’re asking for, and these objectives need to be achievable. Explain to someone where they’ve been successful and how the skills displayed will serve them in the required tasks. This way you needn’t resort to commenting on how nice someone’s rucksack is just to maintain civility.

Remember that people want to improve and succeed

Now I’d again emphasise there’s a big difference between constructive and destructive feedback, but next time you’re dreading giving feedback, it’s important keep in mind how highly it’s valued. After all, if you suppress what you have to say and no improvement is seen, it’ll just compound your concerns and create a festering tension.

Give feedback, not a lecture

After arranging a time to speak to someone, begin by asking them to review the relevant situation – a late pizza delivery, say. See if they admit to any mishaps or ways in which they failed to excel.

This is a good pivot from which to deliver your feedback – the actions and events you witnessed and the unexpected outcomes produced. Then, before making any demands, give the other person another chance to speak. In responding to your description, they’ll probably also develop a better understanding of the impact of their tardy pizza delivery.

If they value the job (or at least the pay packet), then they’ll be motivated to make amends moving forward.

Don’t only give feedback about negative issues

There’s a mistaken notion that people only learn valuable lessons from negative feedback, while positive feedback is just ego-fuel. According to this principle, negative feedback makes people review weaknesses and work harder to improve. Positive feedback, on the other hand, is mere flattery, which inevitably produces complacency and decreased concentration.

However, we disagree and see both positive and negative feedback as constructive modes of communication. Positive feedback, instead of making people narcissistic, breeds trust and mutual respect. People who work hard or do good deeds obviously appreciate being noticed. And after receiving positive feedback, people are more inclined to uphold this standard and look for new ways to innovate and make a positive impact.

What are your tips for giving and receiving constructive feedback? Share them in the comments below.

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Billy Burgess

Billy has been writing blogs for Happy since 2017, covering mindfulness, stress management, confidence building and emotional intelligence as well as offering handy tips for Office 365 users. As an arts, culture and lifestyle writer, his work is regularly published in Music Feeds, VICE, RedBull.com, Beat magazine and Mixdown.

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Happy will be hosting our Active Listening Skills and Giving Constructive Feedback workshop on 6th June 2019 at Happy's HQ in Central London. This workshop is available as private groups for your organisation, which can be held at your workplace or at Happy’s training centre – contact us for availability and pricing.