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5 Tips for Giving Constructive Feedback

6th November 2017

Constructive feedback is information-specific, issue-focused, and based on observations. It is a recommended set of instructions that aims to collaboratively improve the overall quality of a product or service. Often containing helpful and specific suggestions for positive change, constructive criticism is highly focused on a particular issue or set of issues, as opposed to providing general feedback on the item or organisation as a whole.
So, how can we ensure our feedback is constructive enough to enable our teams, colleagues and friends to grow?

‘People seldom refuse help, if one offers it in the right way’ – A.C. Benson

Here are 5 tips to help with constructive feedback…

  1. Get the timing right…
    Be prompt in giving feedback. Delayed feedback is devalued. Deliver the feedback whilst it is still fresh (in both) your minds. Never store up your feedback ready to dump it all at once. Little and often is far more effective!
  2. Be specific not general…

Avoid generalities such as ‘It was awful’ or ‘you were brilliant’ or ‘that went well’.

A statement such as ‘the way you ask open questions to get information from people is particularly useful’ is far more specific than ‘You’re good at getting information from people’.

Being specific provides far more opportunity for learning.

  1. Be descriptive not judging…

Tell the person what you saw or heard and the effect it had on you. To tell someone they are ‘dominating’ won’t be as useful as saying ‘I noticed that you didn’t seem to be listening to what I was saying, and I felt forced to accept your arguments’. Use ‘I find you’ rather than ‘You are’.

  1. Focus on the performance not the person…

Refer to the facts about what a person ‘does’ rather than on what you think or imagine the person ‘is’. You might say that a person ‘talked more than anyone else in the meeting’ rather than that they are a ‘loud-mouth’. The former allows for the possibility of change, the latter implies a negative, fixed personality trait.

  1. Own your feedback…

You are only entitled to provide feedback on the other person’s actions – as you see them.

Use ‘I think…’ not ‘we think…’. Say ‘I noticed…’ not ‘You did…’

Describing your observations in this way reduces the likelihood of the other person responding defensively.

Every human being is entitled to courtesy and consideration. Constructive criticism is not only to be expected but sought.’ – Margaret Chase Smith