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Giving constructive feedback

Giving constructive feedback

Most of us try to do our best when we’re asked to carry out a task or respond to an enquiry – whether this is from customers, clients, colleagues or our nearest and dearest. But how do we know when we’ve done our best? Were we given any constructive feedback? Could we have performed better? Were there aspects we could have improved if we’d been aware they were required? 

There’s usually some learning to be taken on board, no matter how experienced we think we are. The only way we can really improve is by receiving feedback. But this is mostly not given unless specifically requested.

Getting to the nitty gritty

It’s easy to say something was ‘great’ to someone, but that’s not very specific. It gets you off the hook without offering thoughtful comments that get to the nitty gritty of what made an action or experience special. Although they may feel a rosy glow, the person who hears you say, ‘That was great’ isn’t that much wiser about how well they’ve done – or about what else could have been done.

Most of us find it quite difficult to gather our thoughts, giving constructive feedback verbally – especially without warning. Some things aren’t easy to say face to face – even if they’re mostly positive.

Giving feedback in writing

When words don’t come easily, why not take some time to provide written feedback? It may need reflection, but it’ll be worth the effort. The time you invested to express your thoughts will be valued. Written comments can be referred to long after verbal ones have been forgotten or become hard to recall.

A good way to achieve meaningful feedback is to write down sentences that need completing. In her article The Secret to Getting Feedback That You Can Actually Use, Alexandra Franzen suggests possible lines such as

  • One thing that (name) could do differently is –
  • The best thing about working with (name) is –
  • A couple of things that (name) could learn / practise with would be –

Three final thoughts

  • When giving feedback, make sure it’s genuine and comes from the heart – that will make what you say sound more authentic.
  • Feedback is more likely to be accepted when positive remarks as well as negative (critical) ones are made.
  • Once you’ve received constructive feedback, take action! Make the change or improvement! Don’t just leave it gathering dust.

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