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How To Give and Receive Feedback

When we are given feedback that conflicts with our self-image, our instinct is to change the information rather than ourselves.

There’s been a lot published on how leaders should give feedback, but the real art is in receiving it. I have some techniques you may find useful to apply.  First though, because we’re all pre-programmed to resist feedback, it’s worth knowing where our blind spots are.

To feel good about any relationship, personal or professional, two factors are important: 1. That you are doing something of value – making a unique contribution and 2 That you are appreciated.

Feedback is about helping people find more success (to repeat it when they’ve done it already -which is praise) or get there when they haven’t quite achieved it yet (which is criticism).

Feedback is really important in showing appreciation and recognizing someone’s contribution.

Praise  – which is not about making people feel good – it is to help people know what success looks like and give us an opportunity to repeat what is valued.

Criticism – which is not about about making people feel bad is to help us know what we can do better.

It’s like getting your back scratched.  If you have an itch on your back and you’re trying to get someone to find it, you’ll say “no, no, higher, higher” and then ” yes, yes, yes!- That’s it right there.”  It would be crazy not to use both the no’s and the yes’s.

And it’s really important to make sure that feedback is about praise and criticism of work and behaviours. Not about personality.

Remember, all feedback, praise or criticism, is just an opinion – it’s not right or wrong. You’re crazy – could be good or bad – praise or criticism. 

Human beings operate from 4 survival strategies which get in the way of us hearing feedback:

1. Looking Good and Getting Approval – How does this relate to you receiving feedback?

2. Being right: We’re hard-wired to be right, we feel we need to be right.  [Maybe when you go to the hospital we need the surgeon to be right.  But where is right holding us back?] 

3. Be in Control

4. Be Comfortable and Safe (Self-limitation zone)

All of these stop us from learning and growing and connecting.

Here are four tips on giving  feedback:

1. The best way to give feedback is to ask for feedback.

You may be doing something that contributes to whatever is or isn’t working with the other person and it’s important to understand if we’re not doing something helpful.

The act of asking for feedback sends a signal that you’re ready to open up and do your part; you’re showing that you see feedback as a gift.

2. Offer praise – look for the good things and start with them.

This is about taking a long view in a culture where we react badly to criticism It’s not about Mary Kay’s shit sandwich – where you sandwich criticism between praise.

If you’re skiing through the woods, you’re more likely to get through safely if you focus on the endpoint. If you focus on the trees, you’re less likely to reach your end point. Focusing on the good stuff is a way to move forward.

3. Be Helpful

If you go into the conversation with any version of shin kicking or snap this person, or be right, hurt this person.

Think about an objective that’s about being helpful – about helping this person find success.

Here’s one expert’s way to put it: “I’ve got a little feedback and it might be hard to hear, it’s certainly hard to say, but I think I need to do it because I care – and my sole objective is to have a conversation that I think may help you find success.  Are you up for this?

4. Don’t make it about someone’s personality

The purpose of feedback is to help someone else fix their behaviour.

Saying, someone is stupid or a genius is not helpful.

All feedback is about something people can either repeat or Change.

Click Here to read my piece in FORBES on giving and receiving feedback

Remy Blumenfeld is a creative life coach living in London. He empowers leaders to play the game of life with purpose, grace and ease. Before training as coach, he launched a TV Production company which created  dozens of ground breaking, TV shows.

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