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Giving and Receiving Feedback

Giving and Receiving Feedback

In life as much as in work, it’s important to know how to provide feedback to others, effectively and constructively without causing offense.

There are many opportunities in life for providing others with feedback, from commenting on the way that your colleague has carried out a task, to discussing your children’s behavior with them.

This lesson focuses on the process of communicating with someone about something that they have done or said, with a view to changing or encouraging that behavior.  This is often called ‘giving feedback’, and when you do, you want your feedback to be effective.

'Feedback' is a frequently used term in communication theroy.  It is worth noting that this pages is not about what might loosely be called ‘encouragement feedback’—the ‘yes I’m listening’-type nods and ‘uh-huhs’ which you use to tell someone that you are listening.


What is Effective Feedback?

Effective feedback is that which is clearly heard, understood and accepted.  Those are the areas that are within your power.  You have no control over whether the recipient chooses to act upon your feedback, so let’s put that to one side.  So how can you make sure that your feedback is effective?


Develop your feedback skills by using these few rules, and you’ll soon find that you’re much more effective.


1. 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 behavior.


2. Feedback should describe the effect of the person’s behavior on you.

After all, you do not know the effect on anyone or anything else.  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 it, even if you are giving negative feedback.  After all, they 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.


Choose your feedback language carefully.

Xcite's™ useful phrases for giving feedback include:

“When you did [x], I felt [y].”

“I noticed that when you said [x], it made me feel [y].”

“I really liked the way that you did [x] and particularly [y] about it.”

“It made me feel really [x] to hear you say [y] in that way.”


3. Feedback should be as specific as possible.

Especially when things are not going well, we all know that it’s tempting to start from the point of view of ‘everything you do is rubbish’, but don’t. Think about specific occasions, and specific behavior, and point to exactly what the person did, 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’!


4. Feedback should be timely.

It’s no good telling someone about something that offended or pleased you six months later.  Feedback needs to be timely, which means while everyone can still remember what happened.  If you have feedback to give, then just get on and give it.  That doesn’t mean without thought.  You still need to think about what you’re going to say and how.



Xcite™ believes that every interaction is an opportunity for feedback, in both directions.  Some of the most important feedback may happen casually in a quick interchange, for example, this one, overheard while two colleagues were making coffee:

Sarah (laughing): “You remind me of my mum.”

Jade (her boss): “Really, why?”

Sarah: “She gets really snappy with me when she’s stressed too.”

Jade: “Oh, I’m so sorry, have I been snapping at you?  I am a bit stressed, but I’ll try not to do it in future.  Thank you for telling me, and I’m sorry you needed to.”

Sarah had, quite casually, raised a serious behavioral issue with Jade.  Jade realized that she was fortunate that Sarah had recognized the behavioral pattern from a familiar situation, and drawn her own conclusions.  However, Jade also recognized that not everyone she would ever work with would do the same.  Having been made aware of her behavior, she chose to change it.  Sarah had also, casually or not, given feedback in line with all the rules, it was about Jade’s recent behavior, and so was specific and timely, and showed how Sarah perceived it.  It was also at a good moment, when Jade was relaxed and open to discussion.

Receiving 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, and not least because not everyone is skilled at giving feedback.



Be Open To The Feedback

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, and listen to what your colleague is not saying, as well as what they are.


For example, you might say:

 “So when you said …, would it be fair to say that you meant … and felt …?”

“Have I understood correctly that when I did …, you felt …?”

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, and help the person giving feedback to focus on that level.


Emotional intelligence is essential.  You need to be aware of your emotions (self-awareness) and also be able to manage them (self-control), so that even if the feedback causes an emotional response, you can control it.

And Finally

Always thank the person who has given you the feedback.  They have already seen that you have listened and understood, now 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 how, if at all, you wish to act upon it.


That is entirely up to you, but remember that the person giving the feedback felt strongly enough to bother mentioning it to you.


Do them the courtesy of at least giving the matter some consideration.  If nothing else, with negative feedback, you want to know how not to generate that response again.


Xcite™ appreciates you learning about giving and receiving appropriate feedback.  Xcite™ hopes that this information helped to improve your skills in this important area.


In the following lesson you will learn how to communicate in difficult situations.


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24 Degas Street

Brisbane QLD


1300 789 737


Mon - Sat 09:00 - 17:00

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