Posted Aug 03

Giving and receiving feedback

by Luc Groulx
Giving and receiving feedback by Luc Groulx

Giving Feedback

Effective feedback; let’s start with its meaning. I like to think that effective feedback is defined as that which is clearly heard, understood, and accepted. Those are the areas that you can control as you own its delivery. What you do not control is whether the recipient chooses to act upon your feedback, so let’s put that aside for now and focus on the source, delivering effective feedback.  

Here are some foundational rules, to help you become more effective when delivering feedback.

Feedback should be about behavior not personality

The first, and probably the most important rule of feedback is to remember that you are making no comment on what type of person they are, or what they believe or value. You are only commenting on how they behaved. Do not be tempted to discuss aspects of personality, intelligence, or anything else. Only tie feedback to behavior. 

Describe the effect of the person’s behavior 

You never know the effect on anyone when delivering feedback. You only know how it made you feel or what you thought. Presenting feedback as your opinion makes it much easier for the recipient to hear and accept, even if you are giving constructive or negative feedback. The reality is that you have no control over how you felt, any more than you have any control over their intention. This approach is a blame-free one, which is therefore much more acceptable.

Be as specific as possible

Always think about specific occasions, specific behavior, and identify exactly what was done by an individual, and exactly how it made you feel. The more specific the better, as it is much easier to hear about a specific occasion than about ‘all the time’!

Be timely

There is little to no value talking about a situation that took place six months ago. Feedback needs to be timely, which means while everyone can still remember what happened. Continuous feedback tends to yield better results than quarterly or yearly discussions.  That doesn’t mean the feedback is without thought. You still need to think about what you’re going to say, how to deliver the message and the action plan coming from the conversation.

Pick your moment

There are times when people are feeling open to feedback and times when they don’t. Work on your social awareness, to help you develop your awareness of the emotions and feelings of others. This will help you to pick a suitable moment. For example, an angry person won’t want to accept feedback, even if given skillfully. 

How to receive feedback? 

It’s also important to think about what skills you need to receive feedback, especially when it is something you don’t want to hear or concerned with its delivery as not everyone is skilled at giving feedback.

Be an active listener

In order to hear feedback, you need to listen to it. Don’t think about what you’re going to say in reply, just listen. And notice the non-verbal communication as well.  Be aware of non-verbal cues as to what your manager/colleague is not saying, as well as what they are.

Perfect your Active Listening and Non-Verbal Communication skills as they will serve you well in any discussion. Think about Questioning, Reflecting and Clarification to ensure that you have fully understood all the nuances of what the other person is saying as that will go a long way to avoid misunderstandings. Use different types of questions to clarify the situation, and confirm your understanding, including emotions. Always pause, reflect and confirm throughout the discussion  to eliminate any assumptions.

For example, you might say:

“What you are saying is…, would it be fair to say that you meant … and felt …?”

“Have I understood correctly that when I did …, you felt …?, Can you help me understand…?”

Make sure that your reflection and questions focus on behavior, and not personality. Even if the feedback has been given at another level, you can always return the conversation to the behavioral aspect, and help the person giving feedback focus on that piece/part of the discussion.

Emotional intelligence is essential. You need to be aware of your emotions (self-awareness) and be able to manage them (self-control), so that even if the feedback triggers an emotional response, you can and must control it. Read more about emotional intelligence here: 5 tips on how to be an emotionally intelligent leader (link to article). 


Always thank the person who has given you the feedback. They have already seen that you have listened and understood, now you need to accept it.

Acceptance in this way does not mean that you need to act on it. However, you do then need to consider the feedback, and decide howyou wish to act upon it. That is entirely up to you but remember that the person giving the feedback felt strongly enough to provide this information to you. 

Do them the courtesy of  giving the matter some consideration. Walk away with next steps or anction plan if possible.


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