8 Ways to Give Better Feedback

by Betty Lochner on November 11, 2012

Jaxon is waiting for some constructive feedback.

Giving regular, constructive, feedback can have a huge impact on improving relationships. That’s a fact. So why is it so hard for us to do it well?

Giving feedback should be pretty simple. We just tell people what we think, when we think it. Right?

Well, not really.  Giving feedback is an excellent way to communicate, but if it’s not done well, it can get in the way, and hinder rather than help your communication with someone.

Why get good at giving feedback?

When you use constructive feedback effectively, you can clarify misunderstandings, and help identify and resolve  issues while they are still small.  Using feedback is a powerful communication tool in building and improving relationships.

So, are you a good feedback giver?

Here are my top  8 ways to give feedback in a constructive way.  See if there are any listed here you could improve on.

1.Clarify your intentions.

Set the tone and expectation by simply asking first. Don’t just start in or assume that your feedback is wanted.  Say “can I give you some feedback?”  When the answer is “yes”,  then you’ve been given permission and an opportunity.

2. Be timely and give feedback close to the event.

Feedback loses it’s impact as time passes.  When something happens that you want to understand or share your concerns about, do it right away.  Don’t let the problem fester or wait for it to happen again.  It will only get worse and harder to deal with. Trust me on this.

3. Focus on actions or behavior, not the person.

When addressing an issue, talk only about the issue, don’t make judgments about the person.  Describe how what you saw or experienced was different from you expected. Describe what happened without using “you” statements.  For example instead of saying You are always late, “When you come in late, it makes is difficult to get the mail done on time.”   Instead of ”

4. Be respectful and caring.
Always use a kind and respectful tone.  And, don’t ever give feedback when you are angry.  Cool off first. Then remember to focus on the issue.

5. Be specific and descriptive.

Describe the unwanted behavior in detail.  Don’t make generalizations or say things like “you always” or “you never”.  Focus on the specific thing that happened.

6. Assert yourself.

State your thoughts, feelings, and wants.

7. Don’t drag in old baggage.

Keep it current. Stick only with the issue or situation hand. Don’t bring up things that are in the past. If you didn’t deal with it in a timely matter, than let it go and start fresh.  Instead of , “Remember that puzzle we did last year? You screwed that up too.”  Try, “I’m concerned about the way you are throwing the puzzle pieces around – we may us lose one and not be able to finish.”

8.Pause and check for understanding.

Take a minute to ask if what you said is being interpreted the way you want.  For example, “do you understand what I’m trying to say?” or, “do you understand why this is important to me?”   Make sure that your message is heard by asking what will happen next – or how can you help make sure this doesn’t happen again. For example, after you share your feedback, say something like “how can I help you be successful next time?”

And, then do that.

Being good at feedback takes some practice. If it doesn’t go well at first, then start over or try something different.  It’s a skill that will take you a long way toward resolving issues and enriching each and every one of your relationships.


Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home. And, it’s now available on Kindle – Check it out.

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