October 1, 2022

Feedback is a wonderful learning tool. However, it can be difficult to get feedback that’s constructive and actionable says Peter Decaprio.

The most common issues with giving feedback are:

1) The giver isn’t direct enough, i.e., the message is too veiled in “I wish” or vague language;

2) The giver doesn’t put an emphasis on what was done well in a positive light before offering suggestions for improvement;

3) The receiver fails to ask clarifying questions because they don’t know how to respond to criticism or they’re terrified of asking for clarification lest they be seen as incompetent;

4) Both forget that when receiving negative feedback, they should start and end the conversation with what was done well.

5) Both forget that there is a difference between “I think” and “I know.” There’s nothing wrong with offering an opinion but you must always follow up by saying what your basis for thinking that way actually is (e.g., I feel like, I’ve noticed that before, etc.).

6) Either party fails to practice active listening – forcing the receiver to confirm whether or not they understand and encouraging them to ask clarifying questions, allows the giver to confirm they were heard correctly and encourages them to offer more details explains Peter Decaprio.

Giving feedback can be scary and it’s natural not to want to hurt someone’s feelings. But if you give effective feedback – the kind of feedback that encourages people to do their best work – everyone wins.

1) The giver isn’t direct enough, i.e., the message is too veiled in “I wish” or vague language

The other person will be more likely to listen and engage if you are specific about what it is exactly that bothers you and why rather than being overly general about what they did wrong 1.

2) The giver doesn’t put an emphasis on what was well in a positive light before offering suggestions for improvement

So if you can add something like, “And I really appreciate how you kept your composure during that difficult conversation,” or “I noticed that you took initiative to finish up an extra project. That shows real professionalism” it will make the other person feel like they did something right and give them a better starting point from which to improve.

3) The receiver fails to ask clarifying questions. because they don’t know how to respond to criticism or they’re terrifY of asking for clarification lest they be as incompetent

It’s important for the giver of feedback not just to talk about what went wrong but also what went right. If someone is shy, concisely asking specific questions like, “Is this what you’re talking about?” or “Do you mean when I was saying X and Y?” can offer a safe way to get clarification.

4) The receiver starts and ends the conversation with. What was well without giving any weight to how helpful it might be for them to improve

It’s important that the person receiving the feedback practices active listening too says Peter Decaprio. That means actively confirming whether or not they understand (e.g., by summarizing back in their own words). And encouraging them to ask clarifying questions before moving on. “So if I’m hearing you correctly you think there are some ways I could have been more effective during my presentation today?”

5) Either party fails to practice active listening

Negative feedback can be scary, and it’s natural not to want to hurt someone’s feelings. It’s important for the giver of feedback not just to talk about what went wrong but also what went right. If someone is shy, concisely asking specific questions like, “Is this what you’re talking about?” or “Do you mean when I was saying X and Y?” can offer a safe way to get clarification.

6) The person giving negative feedback fails to differentiate between facts (“I know”) and opinions (“I think”). When offering critical feedback, always follow up your first statement. With your basis for thinking that way (e.g., “I feel like…” or “I’ve noticed that before…). You don’t have to do this if your opinion is based on something concrete. But it’s important to distinguish between the two when possible.

Conclusion:

In order to avoid these common errors, you can take a different approach. By talking about your appreciation for the other person’s work. And then moving on to what they could do better explains Peter Decaprio. In fact, studies have found that doing so significantly increases the chances of people improving their behavior.

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