How to give and receive feedback like a pro

How to give and receive feedback like a pro

3 min read

It can be difficult to give and receive feedback effectively, but you can get better at both after reading this comprehensive guide.
In the ever-evolving landscape of personal and professional growth, the exchange of feedback serves as a compass guiding our journey towards improvement. Whether you find yourself in a boardroom, a classroom, or a cozy family dinner, the ability to give and receive feedback effectively is a skill that transcends boundaries and ignites the fires of self-development.
Here is your map to navigating this intricate terrain, unveiling the secrets of constructive critique and the transformative power of personal and professional growth.

Understanding feedback loops

A group of colleagues laughing at a table
At its core, a feedback loop is a circular process where the output of a system is returned as input, leading to self-regulation and continuous improvement. In the realm of human interaction, feedback loops play a pivotal role in shaping our behaviour, performance, and development.
Feedback is a tool for learning; it is a process of self-discovery, an exploration of our capabilities and limitations. When you offer feedback to others, you're essentially becoming a "growth buddy," providing them with insights to help them improve. Embracing this role is not just about helping them; it's also an act of collaboration that benefits you. It's a win-win scenario, just like sharing a pizza with a friend—both of you get a slice of personal development.

How to give feedback effectively

Two colleagues looking at a laptop screen together
While there are many ways one can go about tailoring feedback, one popular method is the feedback sandwich technique. This approach involves sandwiching constructive criticism between positive or encouraging comments. For example, when discussing a project with an employee, start by praising their hard work, then address the areas for improvement, and conclude with encouragement. This softens the impact of criticism and makes the feedback more palatable for the receiver, and is especially valuable when addressing sensitive or challenging subjects.
Here are some key principles to keep in mind while giving feedback:
1. Timeliness: feedback is most potent when delivered promptly. Delayed feedback may lead to misunderstandings or even the erosion of trust. Timely feedback ensures that the context is fresh in both the giver's and receiver's minds.
2. Specificity: effective feedback is specific and well-defined. It highlights the observed behaviour, action, or situation and provides clear examples.
3. Constructiveness: constructive feedback focuses on improvement rather than criticism. It is framed in a manner that encourages growth and avoids being negative. To take it a step further, it also provides suggestions for change.
4. Clarity and precision: effective feedback should be delivered in a clear, concise, and respectful manner. The language used should be easily understandable, and the giver should ensure that the message is not obscured by jargon or ambiguous terms.
5. Focus on behaviour, not personality: feedback should target behaviour, actions, or specific incidents, rather than making judgments about a person's character or personality. This approach reduces the risk of making the receiver feel attacked or defensive.
6. Confidentiality: in some cases, especially in the workplace, feedback should be delivered in a confidential setting to respect the privacy and dignity of the individual receiving the feedback.
7. Openness to discussion: effective feedback promotes a two-way dialogue. Encourage the receiver to ask questions or seek clarifications. This dialogue fosters mutual understanding and creates an environment where feedback can lead to growth

How to receive feedback effectively

Two people sitting in a meeting room
Receiving feedback is not simply about listening to comments and moving on; it is about actively engaging with the input, processing it, and harnessing its power for growth. To understand the significance of effective feedback reception, we must recognise that feedback is a mirror reflecting our actions, performance, and behaviour in relation to specific expectations or goals.
Here are several principles that will help foster a healthy reception of feedback:
1. Open-mindedness: it is essential to approach feedback with a willingness to learn and an understanding that it is an opportunity for growth. A receptive mindset allows individuals to see feedback as a tool for self-improvement, rather than as an attack on their abilities or character.
2. Actively listen: it's crucial to give the giver your full attention without interrupting or becoming defensive. Active listening allows you to fully comprehend the feedback and the perspective of the person offering it.
3. Ask for clarifications: if the feedback received is unclear or requires further elaboration, it's entirely appropriate to seek clarification. This not only helps in understanding the feedback better but also demonstrates your commitment to learning and improvement.
4. Avoid defensiveness: defensiveness is the enemy of effective feedback reception. It's essential to resist the urge to explain, justify, or dismiss the feedback immediately. Instead, take a step back, absorb the information, and reflect on it.
5. Express appreciation: whether you agree or disagree with the feedback, expressing gratitude to the giver is a mark of professionalism and courtesy. Thanking the giver for their input conveys your respect for their effort in helping you grow.
6. Self-reflection: after receiving feedback, take the time to reflect on the comments. Consider how the feedback aligns with your personal or professional goals and how it can lead to improvement. This process of introspection is crucial for effectively utilising feedback for personal growth.
7. Avoid emotional reactions: emotions can run high when receiving feedback, particularly if the comments are critical or challenging. However, emotional reactions can cloud judgment and hinder effective feedback reception. Try to separate emotions from the message and focus on the constructive aspects of the feedback.
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