Getting and Giving More Feedback

Nothing improves a person like feedback yet getting and giving it isn't easy.

Posted Nov 01, 2015

Geralt, Pixabay, Public Domain
Source: Geralt, Pixabay, Public Domain

Scarier than any Halloween frights is the fear of getting and giving feedback. 

Getting feedback

Getting feedback has to be scarier than giving it: What if s/he thinks you're terrible? Worse, what if your terribleness is hard to improve? Just imagine if someone told you your work needs more intelligence? Or that your personality turns people off?

A possible solution is in how you ask for the feedback. For example, if I wanted feedback on my PsychologyToday.com posts, rather than ask whether you like it or even about its strengths and weaknesses, I'd ask, "I'd like to improve my work. What's good about it that I should do more of and what might I realistically be expected to improve?" Now that I think of it, feel free to answer those questions in this article's comments section.

Even if you can push past the fear of getting feedback, will it be worth it? The person's judgment could be wrong or even malevolent--deliberately being undeservedly negative to punish you, make you insecure, or make him/herself feel superior.

A possible solution is in soliciting feedback from more than one person, each of which you sense will provide accurate feedback. A website called Talent Checkup enables you to ask three to eight people for anonymous responses to feedback questions. And it's free.

Let's assume the feedback is accurate. How often do we change in response to feedback? It's safe to say not enough. Most of us are too invested in the way we are.

An antidote: specificity: Ask for feedback on things you're eager to improve and aren't too invested in the way you're doing them now. For example, let's say you're ready for a new look. It might be a good idea to ask respected people for feedback on that or even to go clothes and makeup shopping with you.

Giving feedback

It can be almost as hard to give feedback as to get it, especially if the person didn't ask for your opinion.

But it's simplistic to assert that you should give advice only when asked. Sometimes, people need the feedback, even if they don't ask for it. They may not even know there's a problem, for example, if they have bad breath or self-esteem that exceeds their competence.

Principles that can keep your head from getting chopped off:

  • If the feedback isn't requested, before launching in, ask something like, "I've noticed something about you and to be honest, I'm reluctant to give unasked for feedback. Would you rather I didn't?"
  • Even if the feedback is requested, it can't hurt to ask, "Are you sure you'd like it? Many people ask for feedback but all they want to hear is "attaboy."
  • Keep your feedback specific and improvable, for example, "Might you want to try to use short bullet points in your reports? That will keep you concise and have your key points stand out."

The takeaway

So, do you want to get feedback on something? Whom do you want to ask? How will you couch your request?

Would you like to give feedback to someone? How will you couch your request? How will you state the feedback: for maximum face-saving or to shake them from  complacency?