Four Ways to Improve Your Constructive Feedback
By Jennie Li
Giving (and receiving) feedback is an important aspect of developing ourselves personally and professionally. However, it can often be a source of anxiety and contention, especially when presented without tact. In this article, we’ll examine some ways to help smooth out your feedback style.
1. Preparation is key.
Like most undertakings, presenting your opinion well requires preparation. Thinking about who the person is, the kind of feedback you’d like to give them, and the ways they might receive your feedback are all aspects of being prepared. Giving a little thought to the issues you’d like to present to the person will allow you to present your thoughts in a more organized and confident fashion, perhaps even saving you from last minute tongue spluttering.
4. Care about the person and the issue.
Our intentions manifest in the way we speak. The premise of constructive feedback, improvement through inviting other perspectives, speaks to me as an act of fundamental good faith. When you are able to emotionally invest in the wellbeing of the people and the issues at stake, your constituents will be able to see this through both your verbal and nonverbal communication styles.
2. A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down.
Constructive feedback means giving a balanced assessment. Like writing a story, it is important to switch up the kind of information you give – hearing only about problems can put your listener into a set mode (feeling defensive, or hurt). The danger here lies in the fact that without any distinction between the kinds of information you are giving, the story is flat, and your individual points are lost in the monotony. Sandwiching suggested improvements with positive feedback can make the information more palatable, and easier to remember as well!
3. Don’t tell, ask instead.
Hearing feedback as a demand can cause us to raise our instinctive hackles. Remember, your feedback is an opinion and a suggestion! Ultimately, we are our own masters of our actions. Phrasing your critique as a request is one way of disarming the defenses, and it recognizes the power of the critiqued as the one to implement their own improvements.