How to Give and Receive Constructive Feedback

In an earlier blog post, we discussed the secret to really listening and now it’s time to move on to giving and receiving constructive feedback. Constructive feedback can be a very uncomfortable thing for those receiving the feedback as well as those giving the feedback. Even though it may be uncomfortable, many people, in fact, do want it.

In the secret to listening post, we discussed why listening is so hard. We also discussed how to “catch” the person’s message you’re speaking with. Some sentence stems include:

If I got it…

So what happened is…

Let me make sure I am following you…

By using those sentence stems, you are confirming with the speaker that you are “catching” what they are saying by repeating it back to them. Listening will help you better understand the situation and any deeper issues that may need to be resolved. Now, let’s get back to how this relates to giving and receiving constructive feedback.

Tips for Giving Constructive Feedback

Any sort of criticism/feedback can be hard to swallow, especially in a work setting. But we all need criticism to continue to grow and evolve. Criticism is just as important, if not more so than praise.

How to give constructive feedback:

Schedule a 1-on-1 meeting

This is the best way to give feedback and prevents the recipient from undermining them or potentially getting defensive. Taking dedicated, 1-on-1 time shows the recipient that you value them individually and as a part of the company or organization. It allows you to answer any questions or concerns they may have with the feedback they’re receiving in real-time in an open, honest format.

Be aware of tone and delivery

Start by being positive, leading the conversation with something the recipient is doing well. This will help give an example of what your expectations are. Keep in mind to be clear and specific; the best way to do this is by providing actionable feedback. Using “I” statements is another great way to provide feedback – by using “I” statements you are focusing on the situation rather than the person you are talking about.

Make it a conversation

Using “I” statements is to provide feedback from your perspective. The recipient also has a point of view. Allow them to ask questions about why you may feel a specific way and how they can improve. Feedback is collaborative, not prescriptive.

Tips for Receiving Constructive Feedback

Now that we gave examples of how to successfully give feedback, let’s dive into top tips for how to receive constructive feedback.

Avoid reacting immediately

This can be hard for most of us. Feedback can really engage our fight or flight response and turn a conversation into an argument. Before you go to respond, take a deep breath and resist the urge to react or argue. Take a moment to gather your thoughts and avoid “word vomit” that is unstructured or defensive in nature.

Listen to understand – not to respond

Listening to understand goes back to our previous blog post, The Secret to Really Listening, and learning how to “catch” the feedback you are receiving. By reiterating the message you are receiving to gain clarity and understanding, you are preventing a defensive response. This will really help you acknowledge the feedback and see how it can help you succeed.

Give thanks and ask questions

Giving constructive feedback is difficult. Make sure to thank the person for taking the time to help you improve as an individual and business professional.

Also, be sure to ask questions. This is a great time to brainstorm together the best way to improve. If you aren’t ready to ask questions immediately, that’s okay too. Set up a follow-up meeting to discuss further steps for improvement.

If you are looking to get a more in-depth look at feedback and coaching we have Handling the Tough Conversations and Feedback and Coaching: Essential Skills for Leaders that will take what we talked about here to the next level!