Communication Skills

How To Give Feedback

Feedback is also known as constructive criticism.


Helpful feedback:

- Is concrete and specific. It says precisely what the other person is doing wrong e.g. 'Your resume is 3 pages long, you need to reduce this to two pages.'

- It talks about actions and says what people are doing rather than what they are e.g. 'You dance really artistically' not 'You're fantastic.'

- Makes 'I' statements instead of giving blame or praise: 'I felt angry when you spilled the tea' not 'You're a clumsy idiot!'

- Is given immediately: not hours or days later when neither of you can remember what happened.


Unhelpful feedback:

- Is vague and abstract. It makes the person angry because the person is not told how they can change things.

- Labels people: 'You're stupid'

- Just blames or praises rather than being specific

- May be delayed: by the time it is given, the person may have forgotten what you are talking about.


1. Only give feedback if the gain will exceed the pain: only use it for important things.


2. Praise more than you criticize: Identifying and developing strengths is more effective than focusing too much on negatives.


3. It's a good idea to ask permission: 'Do you mind if I give you some feedback?'. This gives the person time to prepare.


4. Try to give feedback immediately: on the spot if possible: it's most effective when fresh in the person's mind. The more quickly it is given the more relevance and power it will have.


5. Be direct and honest. Get quickly to the point, don't have long and embarrassing introductions, although starting with some genuine praise based on what the person has actually done will help (see the praise sandwich below).


6. Give feedback in private if at all possible, it's insensitive to do this in front of others.


7. Focus on the most concrete and recent example


8. Stick to a single clear issue, don't pack in too much criticism as this can be disheartening.


9. Don't repeat the same point over and over: this will just build up resentment.


10. Only criticize behaviors that can be changed: 'You need to improve your computing skills' rather than 'You're stupid!'


11. Give feedback on a person's behavior not about the person themselves.

Give accurate descriptions of behavior not comments about the person's qualities and worth as an individual.


12. Use 'I' not 'You' statements: 'I feel upset' , and not 'You made me feel upset'.


13. Give specific examples.


Don't just say 'You're hopeless at this', say 'We need to give you training on how to do this!' - Describe the behavior


14. Describe your reaction: Explain why you feel this way - show you understand what's behind their behavior - suggest a different way of behaving


15. Stick to the facts: Describe the behavior but also what happened as a result.


16. The best decisions are those people reach for themselves.

Try not to tell the other person directly what they should and shouldn't do.


Let them explore their behavior and say themselves what needs to be done. This avoids the build up of resentment.


17. Allow the criticized person to express any concerns they may have.


18. Use tentative words such as 'sometimes' and 'perhaps' rather than 'always' and 'never':.


These allow the other person to avoid argument by saying that 'always' is not strictly true.


19. Keep your emotions under control.


20. At the end, check for understanding: 'Does what I've said make sense to you?' and summarize what you've agreed.


21. Talk openly about your own concerns if necessary.


Include positive comments. The 'praise sandwich' can be an effective way to give criticism to someone without alienating them:

First, make a positive statement to the person: 'I think you are really trying your best'

Then the criticism: 'But you need to structure your essay more logically'.

Make another positive statement to finish 'However it's a very good first attempt'


22. If you are receiving feedback yourself, try to accept it in a positive and non-defensive manner.


23. Giving praise: Tell people something they have done that you like or what you like about them.

Conversely, when someone praise you, thanking the person promptly.


24. Apologizing: Say sorry in an assertive, not passive way.


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