Giving Feedback

I would like to joke and say that feedback is “better to give than receive”. However, as we stated yesterday, feedback is very important for us to optimize our own performance.

Sometimes, we may hesitate giving feedback to others since we are unsure of how they will react to it. Will they be appreciative of the feedback?

Will they be defensive to the feedback? Will they respond so negatively that the relationship may be damaged?

Things to consider:

1) Is feedback desired by the recipient?

Before giving feedback to someone else, determine if the other person wants to hear it. For example, if a friend is telling you about a difficult situation, that person may be “unloading” or telling the story for catharsis. In this case, feedback about that person’s role in the situation would most likely not be welcome.

Them: “John came home last night and we got into a huge argument! He said that he was sick of cleaning up after me!”

You: “Hmm, maybe you spend more time cleaning up after yourself”

Result: FAIL!

2) Is it your role to give feedback?

In the work situation, it is almost always appropriate for a supervisor or manager to provide feedback to people in  “subordinate” positions. However, there are a lot of questions to consider when determining if it would be appropriate for you to provide feedback to your supervisor or manager? Do they really want your feedback? Would your feedback reflect negatively on you in the future? What is the price of you remaining silent versus you providing feedback?

3) Use the “Hamburger” approach

Back in my college days when I was a peer counselor, we always encouraged the “Hamburger” approach to giving feedback. The buns are compliments; the meat is the issue that needs to be discussed. Compliment first, feedback then end with a compliment.

 “Hey Bob, I always like the fact that you take reports home to finish them. I know you may be pressed for time, but you may need to slow down and look for typos. I appreciate that you always focus on the content of your work.”

4) Frame points of feedback in the form of a question

People often do better with new or challenging ideas if they feel that they have thought of the idea themselves. Asking questions encourages the listener to create a visual image of a possible situation. Questions can guide the listener to consider his/her own performance and can work well for people who have high ego investment.

5) Keep the feedback about the issue at hand

When you give feedback, it is best to make it clear that you are discussing an issue/idea/event that is separate from the person that you are talking too. Instead of stating “you did this”, consider saying, “when this happened”. Sometimes it is valuable to stand next to someone and look at a visual representation of the issue together. For example, you could hold up a report and state, “in this document, there are a few typos.”

6) Avoid Always/Never Language

When you user the terms always or never in your feedback, you have a good chance of the listener feeling that that have already failed and there is no chance of improving. The terms always/never can make the recipient feel judged or attacked. When others feel attacked, they may likely “shut down” or go on the counter-offensive.

7) Avoid over using “Why?”

If we use “why” too many times, it can sound accusatory to the recipient of feedback. Just think back to your childhood. Imagine how many times your parents asked you the accusatory rhetorical question “why can’t you clean your room” or “why can’t you be more like _____” If you use too many “why” questions with your feedback, the other person may hear “why did you mess up” or “why can’t you do things right”.

Remember feedback should be of some use to the person you are providing it to. When considering giving feedback to another person, imagine how you would feel if you were the recipient. We cannot control another’s reaction to feedback, but surely can control how it is given.

References – My thanks go out to the following sites for inspiration


13 Comments to “Giving Feedback”

  1. Feedback it is…..I enjoy the insightful articles you press. You clearly take time to research materials and I find everything I have read so far to be right on target…it resonates with me.

    Your blog continues to inspire me each time I have a chance to visit. Thank you! In appreciation for your contributions here in WordPress, I have nominated you for “Very Inspiring Blogger” award.

    You can find the details about it here:

  2. Feedback is just feedback. Sometimes it has meaning & sometimes it doesn’t. A terrific bog, BTW, regarding feedback. Another way to frame feedback is to say “I’d like to see more of……”. I, myself like to find something to compliment and to champion the person receiving feedback. Sometimes though you just need to get down to the nitty gritty to go deeper and with great heart. Feedback is something to give with kindness.

    Sue Bock

  3. #6 is important — absolutes make change seem even harder than it really is.

  4. Thank you for sharing this information. I found/find this approach very helpful. I truly enjoy reading your articles. Jay

  5. Loved this. I appreciate the hamburger approach, It takes the sting off.
    Also, on the subject of typos and writing, I think it helps when giving feedback to evaluate your own ego in this process. “Am I concerned that my association with this document with a few typos will reflect on me?” Some people really value correct grammar, while to others, content reigns supreme. In a time where we ask employees to do much more work than we could have 10 years ago without the advent of certain technologies, we have to decide where we can let things go.

    Recently my ego came into play when I was sent a letter to sign on behalf of myself. The language was strong, there was
    a vague sentence fragment, and it was a little flamboyant for my taste. As the queen of the typo, it wasn’t the typos which upset me (which I just corrected without pointing out the mistake) it was my own ego and my reaction to the content.

    I have a friend I often ask to edit things. She never says, “you have a few” typos. She says, “Second paragraph, I think you meant for instead of from…Consider revising the thrid sentence of the third paragraph…it sounds odd to me.” This direct approach does not leave me guessing where my typos are and I appreciate her editing skills and honesty that much more. Also, when I ask her to review content, she comments on content…and then says “and you might want to correct the following typos…” This is why I ask her opinion. She is great at finding mistakes and truly compassionate.

  6. This is such a fantastic post! Very thoughtful and well-rounded… I’m definitely going to be coming back to this one for a refresher from time to time 🙂

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