Occasionally, we all need to  give constructive feedback to others.  The problem is that many times the feedback is given poorly and the other person feels attacked or they want to run and hide.  This is the “fight or flight syndrome” that we are all familiar with.  It’s very difficult to listen and learn from feedback if you are hurt or feel you need to defend yourself.  Here are some tips to help you give feedback the right way to your employees, your boss, or even a family member.

  • Start by asking yourself: “Why am I giving this feedback?”  The only good answer is to solve the problem and help the person.  This question puts you in the right frame of mind and gives you an opportunity to think about the best way to approach the situation.
  • Plan what you want to say. Make sure you have specific examples to help the person understand what you mean.  I like to write it out on paper and sometimes even run it past someone else for their thoughts.
  •  Attack the problem and not the person.  Avoid using “you” and take the emphasis off the person and put it on to the problem.   Check out the difference with this example:  “You made some mistakes on this report.” versus “This report has some errors on it.  Let’s look it over together.”
  • Choose a time and place when the other person will be receptive.  You don’t want to be rushed or interrupted and you want to have privacy.
  • Be open minded and willing to listen to the other person.  Ask how they feel and what they think can be done to solve the problem.   Maybe you haven’t been clear on expectations and it’s always best if the person shares in the solution.

In order for others to be open to feedback from us, we also need to be open to constructive feedback and willing to look at ourselves as others see us.  A few years ago I read that feedback is like a stick.  We can beat the other person up with it which is the “fight” response; we can beat ourselves up with it which is the “flight” response; or we can examine the stick and decide how to use it.   I’d like to hear any tips you have on how to provide constructive feedback.

2 responses to “Deconstructing Constructive Feedback”

  1. Absolutely, feedback is all about the delivery. Delivery determines how productive or destructive the dialogue will become.

  2. You are right. How you say it is every bit as important as what you say. Thanks for your comment.

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