Giving and receiving feedback

Feedback lets us know what we are doing well and how we can improve. We’ve been receiving feedback since we were children, it’s how we learnt to behave.

We give and receive feedback all of the time, we might complain after waiting too long in a shop, might comment on how untidy your friend leaves the kitchen after using it or we might tell one of our team members that they aren’t completing all of their tasks on time.

In a work environment there might have an official performance management review every 3 or 6 months but most organisations will encourage feedback to be given regularly. This can be from managers to employees but also the other way round (often called 360 feedback).

Feedback is important as it helps us develop and improve our skills, it can be positive (good) or negative (bad). It’s important that we give and ask for both kinds of feedback, only knowing what we are good at doesn’t help us develop our strengths and only being told we are bad at things isn’t helpful either.

Receiving feedback:

It can seem scary to be pulled aside to receive feedback and it can make people nervous. Try to see getting feedback as a positive experience and don’t always expect the worst. Feedback helps us to stop, think and learn how to do things differently, we are all still learning and feedback is an important part of it. Feedback shouldn’t be seen as being told off, it is a chance to learn how to improve.

Be open: prepare yourself for receiving feedback and be open to it as a way of learning. Nobody’s perfect but feedback is a way of improving and making our skills top notch. It might be useful to look back over our active listening skills here.

Listen: take the time to listen to what the person is telling you, it can be really easy to only hear that you are bad at something or did something wrong. Fight the urge to be defensive and jump in to answer.

Hint:If you feel that the person is wrong take the time to think about it and then explain why you think they might have misunderstood what really happened.

Learn from it: ask questions about how you can improve, ask the person giving feedback (or others) what they would have done in that situation.

Giving feedback

Giving feedback is an important job and it really pays to be prepared. We are talking about people’s feelings and confidence here so be careful with your words. Remember that giving feedback is:

About Behaviour: This isn’t an attack on someone’s personality, this has to be about their behaviour.

Timely: Try to give feedback as soon as possible so it is fresh in people’s minds, you can be more specific and it gives you less time to stew and become more upset and you fix the problem quicker – win-win!

Hint: if the situation is particularly heated or emotional it can be best to wait to give feedback!

Private: dont give negative feedback in front of other people and don’t share it with others before or after you have given the feedback. If you are going to share good feedback make sure you do it privately too, it is important that you take the time to really share what went well and what was good about the behaviour.

“I” statements: Use I statements such as “I was upset that you showed up late” rather than “You made me feel upset by turning up late” Presenting feedback by focusing on how it made you feel makes it easier to hear and less of an attack.

Two issue maximum: this isn’t a free-for-all for you to include everything that this person has ever done. Giving feedback in these chunks is the best way to keep confidence high and make sure that the person understands it.

Be specific: when things aren’t going well we can very quickly jump to telling people they are rubbish or stupid, this isn’t helpful.

  • describe the behaviour
  • describe your reaction
  • explain why you feel this way
  • show you understand what’s behind their behaviour
  • suggest a different way of behaving

The Challenge:

  • Ask two people outside of your friends and family for feedback
  • Give feedback to one person


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