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Give Real Feedback or Say Nothing

Most ‘feedback’ sounds like this:

  • You’re awesome.
  • Good job.
  • Nicely done.
  • You’re cutting corners.
  • You have a bad attitude.
  • You’re not committed.
  • You’re careless.
  • You’re disengaged.

I’m not sure why, I wish I could give you a good reason, but the vague phrases above are what come out of people’s mouth’s first when giving feedback. To prevent giving fake feedback, you have to prepare.

There is a reason you think the person is awesome or has a bad attitude. What did they do that created that impression? Until you can describe what the person did to create an impression, you’re not ready to give feedback. You’re better off saying nothing.

All of the phrases above are opinions with no facts. Opinions are judgments. Feeling judged makes people defensive. When people are defensive, it’s hard to listen.

The purpose of feedback is to help another person. Give the person enough information that they know what to replicate and what to change. Before you give feedback, write down three things the person did that created your impression. If you can’t give an example, wait to have the conversation until you can. It’s better to say nothing than to say something vague and unhelpful.

Vague positive feedback sounds inauthentic. Vague negative feedback is judgmental. Neither strengthens your relationship or are helpful.

If you really want to be heard and you want to be helpful, provide an example. No example, no feedback.

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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One Response to “Give Real Feedback or Say Nothing”

  1. Heather says:

    When it comes to waiting to give better feedback, is there ever a “time limit” on this? When it comes to giving that feedback, and you have an example, what time frame do you recommend? I find many people waiting WAY too long, and that feedback is less effective because of that.

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