Isn’t it annoying when you ask someone for their feedback and all they say is either, “I like it” or ”I don’t like it” with no further explanation. While the former may flatter, and the latter hurt neither really give you a sense of what was done well or how you could improve.
Yes? Good, I’m glad we’ve agreed that’s annoying! I’d like to encourage everyone to make an effort to be more mindful about giving constructive feedback.
The amazing thing about giving constructive feedback is that once people realize your potential, everyone wants your insight. And being sought after as a resource like this is a great tactic for building your business (as long as people value your input appropriately). Giving constructive feedback is an artform, it takes 1) A Critical Eye, 2)A strategic mindset and 3) a diplomatic tongue.
Step 1: A Critical Eye
The first step in giving constructive feedback is to have a critical eye. What does that mean? It means you’re looking at and for specific things. To be honest what exactly you’re looking for depends on what you’re reviewing.
There are a number of things to consider in order to hone your critical eye in general. First things first, determine why your input is being requested. It is such a simple, yet often overlooked questions. And when you’re seeking feedback be sure to communicate clearly why you’re soliciting the insight of others. Maybe you’re reviewing for clarity, grammar, aesthetics, impact, understanding….the list goes on.
It is also useful to consider what unique perspective and expertise you have to offer. Many people undervalue themselves in this department by thinking, “I’m no expert, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Reframe your perspective for a moment, if you’ve been sought after that’s all the proof you need that you have a valuable perspective to bring and share. Be authentic and sincere with your feedback. Many people will not share their thoughts because they fear ridicule or feel it might be stupid. Worry not about these things, instead explain what informed your reactions.
Take some time to consider what stands out to you – both the good and the bad. Look for things that jump out at you as you’re reviewing another’s work. If you think, “nothing jumps out at me” try looking deeper and revisit why you’ve been asked to provide feedback. A non-reaction is important insight to share as well because usually the creator has an intended impact or outcome they’re striving to achieve.
And lastly, but really first, make a note of your first impressions. Are they positive, neutral, negative? And why did you have that reaction? First impressions are important, make note of your initial reaction and consider if it changed as you finished your review. If so, what made it change and why?
Step 2: A Strategic Mindset
As I mentioned above, most people are expecting certain outcomes or a desired impact from they’re efforts. Be it a blog post, a report for a client, new marketing materials, a presentation, the layout of your store, so-on-and-so-forth. At this point you’re thinking big picture.
Take this one item and put it into a greater context by considering these questions:
- What is the end goal here?
- What is the desired impact/result of this work?
- Who’s the audience?
- How does this fit within the big picture?
- What other perspectives should be considered?
You may want to ask these questions directly to the creator of what you’re reviewing. Depending on your familiarity with the situation you may already have sufficient insight into the big picture. Sometimes people want to hear your first reactions before providing more background on what they’re working on and that’s fine. Just remember to circle back around to the big picture so your feedback can be incorporated into a broader context and therefore have more relevancy.
Step 3: A Diplomatic Tongue
A diplomatic tongue is the difference between being hurtful and being constructive. Instead of saying what you’re thinking, i.e. “You sound so stupid when you end a sentence with a preposition” say, “It is not professional to end a sentence with a preposition, I suggest rewording.” In general avoiding “you” statements helps the listener to be less defensive and more open to the feedback.
I like to put myself in others’ shoes as I’m giving feedback and I’ll say that. For example, when reviewing a sales letter for a client I said, “When I look at this letter from a CEO’s perspective I think, ‘it’s too long.’ I’m busy and I want you to get right to the point, otherwise I’m going to stop reading at worse and at best skim.”
It is important to remember that feedback is usually (unless you the boss lady) not a directive. The receiver can leave it or take it depending on what’s important to them. As such I like to start some of my recommendations with, “I would.” It’s a great way to convey your perspective without telling someone what they should do; it puts the final decision back in their court.
“I would choose three main points to highlight in your talk then use the stories and examples you shared to emphasize each of those main points.”
When giving constructive feedback, also be sure to praise a job well done. “I really like the colors you’re using for your marketing, they’re bright, happy and convey what you’re all about.”
Follow these three simple steps, 1) A Critical Eye, 2) A Strategic Mindset and 3) A Diplomatic Tongue the next time someone asks for your feedback and feel great about providing valuable insights that are constructive and helpful! And remember to clearly communicate your expectations of others when soliciting feedback so that you may get the most out of other’s time and effort.