The art of providing feedback

Feedback can help us improve our skills and attitudes but it can be difficult to give and receive. These tips can help you offer the type of feedback that makes communities stronger.

If we want to improve, we need to hear both positive and negative feedback. We can receive feedback in several forms, including verbal and non-verbal, and use that feedback to determine or alter the way we behave in certain situations. How well do you provide feedback to others?

Our society places a lot of emphasis on honesty and feedback is most valuable when it is honest and from a reputable source. It is important to note that feedback can be both negative and positive and in an ideal situation, we ensure that they are balanced and constructive. These tips from Michigan State University Extension can make the feedback you provide more useful for individuals:

  • Utilize descriptive language rather than evaluative language. This phrasing makes it easier for the individual to take it or leave it. The urge to defend their performance is reduced by the language choice and they may consider it one person’s opinion. Depending on your relationship or status, it will have a varying amount of weight.
  • Be specific in your comments. General comments are just that – general – and at times, have no meaning. When you can be specific, it is clear you were tuned in and noticed a specific behavior that can be altered, if negative, or repeated, if positive.
  • Consider what is in their realm of control. Before you offer feedback, consider if the person has control over the item you would like them to change. If not, this may not be the item on which to offer feedback. When something is out of someone’s control, mentioning it to them is of little value. A singer cannot fix a problem with the sound system at the music hall but they could work on their pitch or how they hold a mic for future performances.
  • Consider the needs of the person you are providing the feedback to and the timing of the feedback. Will the individual be in the right space to receive the feedback? There is an appropriate time for reflection and feedback; consider when the time is right so they can receive and process what you are telling them. Feedback should occur at a time when the person can still remember the event but not so close that it takes away from the event. You also want to be sure that the person has support and resources to help them improve when necessary; some feedback can be hard to take but still needs to be shared. One should also consider if the feedback should be shared privately or publicly; it is good to remember the general rule to praise in public and criticize in private.

Feedback can help us improve our skills and attitudes but it can be difficult to give and receive. By utilizing these tips and considering the feelings of the receiver, you will be on your way to offering the type of feedback that makes our communities stronger. 

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