If you saw someone with food stuck in their teeth, would you tell them about it? When I ask people this question, it’s amazing the dialogue we get into. It’s never a black and white response and most of the time people say “well, it depends”.
The reality is the most precious gift you can give someone is your feedback, as hard as it might be for us. Without it, they are walking around unaware of something that could be getting in their way of success.
Here are some simple tips to use when giving and receiving feedback.
- Give context to the feedback. Answer the question, why are you giving me this feedback? Before giving feedback you might say something like this, ” I hope you don’t mind but I wanted to share some feedback with you that may be helpful for your development. Would you be open to hearing it?” Only proceed with giving the feedback if the answer is yes.
- Focus on the behavior. Be specific and avoid generalities. When we can describe a specific situation, this helps to clarify what we are talking about. Instead of saying, “you could improve your verbal communications”, you could say “you could improve your presentation skills by being more organized with an agenda and animated with how you deliver the content.”
- Make suggestions that can help the individual see what would be more productive activities/behaviors. This helps the individual bridge to future behaviors because you already had an expectation that was not met that they did not realize. You might say something like “When you facilitate a meeting, it might be useful for you to use visual aids such as a PowerPoint presentation/the white board with charts and graphs. Doing a dry run of your presentation in advance may help you eliminate some of your anxiety when speaking in front of an large group.”
- If you are receiving feedback from your boss that is vague and unclear, you can ask clarifying questions to better understand the feedback. Your questions can include: who said what specifically? What suggestions do you have for me to improve in this area?
- Ask other people for their feedback. There might be other people you work with that can provide you greater clarity and suggestions on the feedback. You might say something like “I’m always looking for ways to continually improve. Can you share any feedback you have about my presentation the other day? What did I do well? What could I do to make it even more effective next time?”
- Don’t take it personal.This is difficult but focus on the behavior. See it as an opportunity for you to improve. When you do, you’ll be able to let go of any defensiveness about the feedback.
- Thank the person giving you feedback. Let the person know you appreciate their feedback and you are open to hearing feedback anytime they have it. After all, the more you know, the more you’ll be able to be able to make changes for the better.
As you look to put this skill into practice, is there someone you’ve been wishing you could give feedback to but haven’t? Make a commitment to do it within the next week!