Feedback. Challenging to give; difficult to receive – even when it is positive we Australians still seem to struggle with giving and receiving feedback!

I think a lot of people feel awkward giving positive feedback – maybe because they didn’t get enough as a kid or maybe because their boss doesn’t give them any so why should they? And people feel intensely uncomfortable giving negative feedback because they see it as only that – negative – and who wants to make someone unhappy or risk being not liked?

But here’s how I see it – giving feedback (good or bad), when done in the right way, is the ultimate sign of respect for the other person.  Why? Because it says ‘I care enough about you to take the time to tell you my thoughts’. Whether that is taking the time to say ‘I saw what a great job you did there’; or ‘I don’t feel like that service you gave me this time was your normal great quality and here’s why…’

Either way, the real reason why giving feedback is the ultimate respect is this: it empowers them. It empowers them to choose to take action. Once you’ve given them useful and constructive feedback, they now have the knowledge of what to keep doing or what they might need to consider changing if what they are doing isn’t up to scratch.

So next time you see a need to give someone feedback but feel a little awkward, think about whether that person would be empowered by what you have to say. If the answer is ‘yes’ then get in and say it.  How you deliver it of course is always key…

Particularly with constructive criticism, there is typically a high likelihood of the feedback interaction being one that will make a withdrawal from your relationship bank.  We need to be aware too, that positive feedback perceived as false or un-genuine will also leave a negative impact.  There are four keys to giving feedback effectively:

  1. Make it timely. Spontaneous, on the spot feedback can be highly effective, particularly when it is recognition of a job well done. Constructive feedback might need a little more time to frame up in your mind, but still don’t leave it too long.
  2. Be real! Most people can tell if a gushing ‘oh my gosh you were just so great at that presentation’ isn’t for real – it’s kind of like the ‘oh that dress is just perfect on you’ comment that the sales person says when you walk out the change room looking like you are wearing a hessian sack!
  3. Be constructive.  If the feedback you are giving is about something not-so-positive, make sure what you say is constructive.  Getting personal won’t help.  Focussing on the facts and why you need to give the feedback will help.
  4. Come from a place of ‘support’ – if you give feedback and you do so when you are in the frame of mind that says ‘I am doing this to support and respect this person’, then you are most likely to deliver it in a way that is firm but fair, and with the right purpose which will get the best outcome.

– Naomi

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