The Art of Constructive Feedback – 4 Rules to Make Your Feedback Count

Feedback is an important part of growth, be it personal or professional and if you’re like me, you’ll appreciate any chance you have to get constructive feedback from your coworkers, friends or loved ones. In general, feedback helps us grow and improve, but in order for feedback to be constructive, you, as a giver, need to follow certain rules.

The rules for constructive feedback are very simple and quite logical, really, but you should always take them into account. Otherwise, the information you share may be missed or even misinterpreted by the person receiving the feedback, causing the relationship to go downhill. In order to avoid that, here are the steps you should take.

BE TIMELY

Feedback is helpful when it’s received at the right time. Unless it’s a pre-arranged feedback meeting, you should always try to give feedback 24-48 hours after the situation in question. This window gives you enough time to think about what you want to say and how you want to say it. Also, if the feedback you want to give is about a situation that upset you, it’ll give you enough time to calm down. Giving feedback when your emotions are raging is not a good idea because you have less control over what you’re saying and how you’re saying it.

On the other hand, if you wait too long to give feedback on something that happened, be it positive or negative, the information you share will have little effect on the other person. Of course, it is better to share your feedback than not to, it’s just that it won’t be as useful as it would have been had you sad it earlier, closer to the time when the situation happened.

BE SPECIFIC AND CLEAR

When you give feedback, it is important to be as specific as possible. Use concrete examples to backup what you’re saying. Feedback is a tool for continuous learning and the best way to learn is to know exactly what needs to be improved.

In addition to that, you want to make sure the other person understands your feedback the way you intended it to be. For that reason, you need to be clear on your message. Make sure to be to the point and avoid digressions that will add unnecessary information for the other person. Information clutter, be it praise or criticism, will just confuse the other person making your feedback less effective and helpful.

BE PROACTIVE

This rule is very important when it comes to criticism. If you’re about to tell someone that s/he needs to work on something, make sure to offer suggestions on what s/he might do to improve the situation. For example, if you’re annoyed by someone being late all the time, instead of saying

“Our meeting runs overtime because you’re constantly being late. Can you come on time next time?”

You could say:

“I feel inefficient every time you are late to the meeting because the meeting runs overtime. Could you take an earlier bus on the days when we have meetings so that you are here on time?”

Or something along those lines. The point is, give the person a suggestion on how s/he might approach the behavior because sometimes we are not aware of how our actions may affect other people. What is more, sometimes, we don’t even know we need to change our behavior until someone points it out to us. This is why giving suggestions comes in handy because it helps us think of more ways to solve the problem.

DIRECT YOUR FEEDBACK TO THE BEHAVIOR, NOT THE PERSON

Last, but probably the most important rule is to direct your feedback to the behavior, not the person. What we do or say can be right or wrong, not we as people. Who we are doesn’t equal what we do at all times so be very mindful of this.

Saying “what you did was irresponsible” and “you are irresponsible” or “you did this well” and “you are a good person” are two completely different things and have very distinct meanings. Remember, it is not up to you to judge someone as a person, but you can comment on her or his behavior if you believe that your comment can help him or her improve and grow.

Feedback is usually mistaken for criticism and many people try to avoid it for that reason. In reality, we give feedback every time we speak to someone, we just don’t call it that way.

In actuality, feedback is around us all the time. Every time we speak to a person, employee, customer, vendor, etc., we communicate feedback. In actuality, it’s impossible not to give feedback.

Saima Sarwar

So, next time you’re about to give feedback to someone, think of these rules. They will make your feedback much more constructive and beneficial for the other person. On the other hand, be aware of the feedback you receive and ask for clarifications if all you’re getting is just random comments.

Feel free to share the article with others because the more aware we are of how we give and receive feedback, the more we will improve and grow.

Until next time, keep learning and growing.

Sneza

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