Develop your feedback skills by using these few rules, and you’ll soon find that you’re much more effective.
- Feedback should be about behaviour not personality
The first, and probably the most important rule of feedback is to remember that you are making no comment on what type of person they are, or what they believe or value. You are only commenting on how they behaved. Do not be tempted to discuss aspects of personality, intelligence or anything else. Only behaviour.
- Feedback should describe the effect of the person’s behaviour on you
After all, you do not know the effect on anyone or anything else. You only know how it made you feel or what you thought. Presenting feedback as your opinion makes it much easier for the recipient to hear and accept it, even if you are giving negative feedback. After all, they have no control over how you felt, any more than you have any control over their intention. This approach is a blame-free one, which is therefore much more acceptable.
- Feedback should be as specific as possible
Especially when things are not going well, we all know that it’s tempting to start from the point of view of ‘everything you do is rubbish’, but don’t. Think about specific occasions, and specific behaviour, and point to exactly what the person did, and exactly how it made you feel. The more specific the better, as it is much easier to hear about a specific occasion than about ‘all the time’!
- Feedback should be timely
It’s no good telling someone about something that offended or pleased you six months later. Feedback needs to be timely, which means while everyone can still remember what happened. If you have feedback to give, then just get on and give it. That doesn’t mean without thought. You still need to think about what you’re going to say and how.
- Pick your moment
There are times when people are feeling open to feedback and times when they aren’t. Have a look at our page on emotional awareness and work on your social awareness, to help you develop your awareness of the emotions and feelings of others. This will help you to pick a suitable moment. For example, an angry person won’t want to accept feedback, even given skilfully. Wait until they’ve calmed down a bit.