The art of giving feedback

February 23, 2022
Diana Conconi

At some point in our lives, each of us will need to give someone feedback. And while feedback is usually either positive or “constructive”, experts say the way we deliver it matters the most.

Our team recently had an opportunity to participate in a webinar on The Art of Giving Feedback, through our client, LifeWorks, with Gudrun Hodge, a Registered Professional Counsellor and Senior Workplace Facilitator.

According to Hodge, not knowing how to give feedback can create a stressful and uncomfortable environment for both the giver and the receiver of feedback. But when it is done properly, the dopamine we get from positive feedback, or praise, can actually create physical benefits. (This is extremely important since we’ve already endured a lengthy period of dopamine deficiency during COVID-19). Yet, even in giving praise, we need to be mindful of being specific and descriptive in our feedback for a more meaningful interaction. Consider how “I was really impressed with the way you tackled that assignment!” sounds vs a generic “Great job!”

As for constructive feedback, Hodge recommends preparing for the best way to give feedback by asking yourself four questions:

  • Have I established a trusting, respectful and learning environment (so the person receiving the feedback feels like they can openly and safely share)?
  • Have I set realistic expectations?
  • If I were them, how would I want to be told?
  • How will the feedback help them change, be more successful and learn?

If you can answer all of these, you’re almost there!

It also helps to remind yourself that feedback, even less-than-positive feedback, is a valuable and essential growth and success tool. It helps people realize and recognize how their behaviour affects others and whether they are acting appropriately; learn to be better and more productive while also helping maintain positive relationships and finally, address issues before they get bigger and entrenched.

So now it’s feedback time! This is where the how takes over. If you keep these seven strategies in mind, they can help frame the conversation so you can give better, more effective feedback:

  1. Be calm and reassuring – your tone and pitch will keep the other person more open to what you have to say.
  2. Be descriptive and don’t judge – keep it professional and just focus on decisions and behaviours.
  3. Be specific – words such as “always”, “never” or “all” are too general, evaluative and unhelpful.
  4. Be realistic – focus on change the person can actually make.
  5. Be timely – waiting too long to give feedback can dull the impact of the feedback and potentially create a sense that the issue wasn’t very important or is too late to do anything about.
  6. Be clear and concise – keep it short and get to the point.
  7. Be aware the person might not accept your feedback – it’s always the person’s choice, but then they need to realize there may be other consequences.

Every opportunity to give feedback can be an opportunity to have an open conversation that engages the recipient and serves both their needs and yours. When feedback is grounded in genuine respect and care for the success of the individual, the idea of giving better feedback can be less uncomfortable and more productive.

Have a question? Interested in finding out more?