Constructive Feedback...Really?
How good are you at giving “constructive feedback”? Is the feedback you give truly constructive?

Whether giving someone feedback or expressing your opinion, do you do it in a way that communicates:

A) “You’re a fool” or B) “Here’s my perspective.”

I was just reminded of this while reading responses to a question posed in a speakers e-newsletter I received. One of the members asked fellow members for their perspective on an ethical dilemma.

It was fascinating to notice the range of responses, from:

1. Earnest and sincere in sharing their opinion and beliefs, and the reasons behind them.

2. Pompous, preachy, and patronizing – The person holds forth in a long drawn-out “seminar”, adopting a superior, all knowing posture.

3. Judging and scolding – One member started off their response: “Be a grownup and a professional.”

Think of times you’ve been on the receiving end of any of the second two styles of giving feedback or an opinion and how willing you were about sharing further with that person.

Conversely, think about people you know who are skilled at giving feedback and sharing their perspective on an issue.

Don’t they do things like:

1. Frame their perspective as an opinion, rather than a fact or proclamation. They do this by saying things like as “In my opinion...” or “To me it seems...”

2. Use a tone of voice that implies openness for discussion, rather than “The Authority has spoken. Case closed.”

3. Use a tone of voice and words that reflect respect for the other’s point of view, rather than a tone that communicates disbelief—“You can’t be serious, right?”—or disgust—“I can’t believe you believe THAT! What a fool!”.

4. Follows up by asking the other person for their thoughts—i.e. they communicate an interest in having a dialogue, not making it a monologue.

Since Emotional Intelligence accounts for 2/3 of career success, according to research by the Hay Group, and probably more of happiness in our personal lives, and because knowing how to engage people in productive dialogue is a key part of Emotional Intelligence, learning how to give constructive feedback and voice our opinion effectively makes a big difference both personally and professionally.

Your ability to give feedback so it is truly constructive will make a big difference in whether people want to listen to you—and therefore—your overall effectiveness.

To get better at this, notice when you receive feedback and whether the person’s approach leaves you wanting to hear more and use their feedback or...get out of their as quickly as possible so you can lick your wounds.