When you touch a hot surface, you get feedback when your hand hurts. When you hug someone you care about and who cares about you, those warm feelings are feedback. When you get a like on your post, that’s a type of feedback. Feedback helps you to learn not to touch the burner, to connect you to other people who care about you too, and to decide who to write for. Feedback helps us all to grow, and that’s why it should be built into our processes.

What is Feedback?

Ok, so this isn’t a difficult question. But, I think many people think it’s getting advice on how to change or just about the mistakes they’ve made. And although that can be part of it, feedback encompasses more than that.

Feedback is when you receive a response for something you’ve done or created. This can include positive feedback, ways to improve, and also negative responses.

What Teaching Taught me about Feedback

One of the biggest parts of teaching is giving feedback. In graduate school, I wrote ten to thirty-page research papers and often received one to three pages of feedback.

As a teacher, I would provide feedback on students’ rough drafts throughout their papers and overall feedback at the end of their papers.

The point of giving writers thorough feedback was to help them to learn more about their strengths so they could continue to lean into them, discover where they can improve, and to understand the steps they could take to improve on their weaknesses.

At its core, feedback is given to help someone grow. And the problem with not getting feedback is that it becomes much harder to grow, gauge your progress, and improve. This is why it’s so essential to build feedback into your projects. Not only is it helpful to get feedback, but it’s also important to give feedback.

Giving Good Feedback

Learning how to give good feedback takes time, but here are some tips to get you started.

Give Honest Feedback

No one wins if you’re not honest. Remember, the purpose of feedback is to help the other person to grow and improve. If you’re not honest, you’re not giving the person receiving the feedback the opportunity they deserve.

Give Feeback in a way it’s Best Received

Not everyone accepts feedback in the same form. Find out the best way to provide feedback for each person you’re giving feedback to. It might be written, oral, synchronous conversation, or a combination of methods. Timing is also important. The person should expect feedback is coming. If they’re not expecting it, you’re creating a scenario where they may be resistant or even unable to accept feedback.

Be Specific

Positive Feedback

Not This: This is great!

Do This: This is great because you’ve clearly outlined what we should expect to learn by the end of this talk.

The revision of feedback ensures the speaker realizes that a strength is that a clear purpose statement helps the audience to better follow and understand the talk.

Negative Feedback

Not This: “I don’t understand.”

Do This: I don’t understand how this example demonstrates what you’re asserting above. Can you explain you X relates to Y?

This improved example gives the writer a clearer idea of what you don’t understand and where they need to clarify.

Provide an Opportunity for Discussion

Feedback shouldn’t be a one-way street. For the full benefits of feedback, discussion is essention because it gives the other person the opportunity to ask clarifying questions, to be able to go deeper into the feedback, and even to get support for developing a plan for improvement.

How to Prime for Effective Feedback

If the situation and environment isn’t right, even the best feedback can become ineffective. In order to create the best situation for everyone, do your best to:

  • be empathetic;
  • be honest;
  • be trusted by the person;
  • be consistent in your feedback and your expectations;
  • be respectful;
  • be private-public feedback can feel like a public shaming;
  • give clear expectations at the onset of the project.

Giving feedback isn’t easy. It’s especially not easy if you’re working in a space that’s not psychologically safe, where there’s not a built-in process, and where most of the experience with feedback has revolved around negative responses. Giving good feedback takes time, empathy, and care. But ultimately, when we do make it a deliberate part of the process, and we take a person-first approach; we all benefit and are better able to grow together from the experience.