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Giving Feedback: When to Say Nothing

Giving feedback

There are two purposes of giving feedback and only two purposes – to encourage people to either replicate or change a behavior. Providing input for any other reason doesn’t actually qualify as feedback and only serves to damage relationships.

Sometimes we provide input because we’re frustrated or simply don’t like someone. Consider the purpose of your comments before you make them. If your intentions are pure – to help someone replicate or alter a behavior, then ask for permission and give feedback once given the green light. If you’re ‘just talking’ to talk or vent, say nothing.

Here are five criteria for when to give feedback and when to say nothing:

Giving feedback criteria one: You have the relationship to do so. You’ve built trust. The recipient will know your motives are pure – to add value and help.

Giving feedback criteria two: You’ve asked for permission to give feedback. Even if your title grants you the permission to give feedback, asking if the person is open to the feedback can increase receptivity.

Giving feedback criteria three: You’re not upset. Wait to give feedback until you’re calm, but don’t wait longer than a week (max two).

Giving feedback criteria four:  Four months haven’t passed since the incident happened that you want to address. If the purpose of feedback is to encourage someone to replicate or change a behavior, the feedback needs to be given shortly after the event occurred. If you wait, the feedback is unhelpful and creates suspicion of other things you haven’t said.

Giving feedback criteria five:  You have a specific example to provide. No example, no feedback.  Feedback is supposed to be helpful. Telling someone they’re “doing a great job” is nice to hear but isn’t specific enough to be helpful or sincere. Likewise, telling someone their work isn’t “detailed oriented,” isn’t helpful without a specific example or two.

Evaluate your motives before you speak. Are you attempting to encourage someone to alter or replicate a behavior, or are you just sharing your unsolicited opinion? Give feedback for the right reasons, and retain your relationships.

How to Say Anything to Anyone

About 

Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at www.candidculture.com.

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