How to give good feedback

Yesterday I talked about why criticism is important in the success of any company and how to accept feedback about your work. Today I am going to write about how to give good feedback. Giving good feedback is as important as accepting it.

Present a solution instead of a complaint

Even if you don’t follow any of the other points below, make sure you follow this. Creators consider their creation as their baby and hold it dear to their heart. So any kind of complaint you have against a product or design or code will be taken as negative feedback and faced with immediate resistance.

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There are two things I have done in the alternative dialog above.

  1. I always give them proof about why their idea/design/solution is a bad idea. A little search on the web can get you numerous examples of how others have solved it and even research on why it was solved in a particular way. Giving them such social proof makes it easy for the creator to see it in a new light.
  2. Notice how I kept saying and including the word “we” in the solution. Even though its just the creator who is going to do the work, by using “we” you are confirming that you are also on their team. This is a simple but classic psychology trick to get people onto your side.

Provide timely feedback

Delayed feedback is even worse than absent feedback. At least if there was no feedback, you could claim that nobody saw it coming or it was unexpected. But if you said “I knew this was going to fail. It was doomed from the beginning”, then you have the moral obligation towards the company to bring it up.

If you didn’t escalate a problem or an issue in time, you have just wasted everybody’s time and efforts. But if you said you saw this coming after something happened, you are just adding fuel to the fire.

Give feedback in public and not behind somebody’s back

Make sure that you give feedback directly, face-to-face. Talking bad about somebody behind their back is not cool. Whatever feedback you have about somebody’s work, just talk to them about it. Have an open conversation. By giving feedback like the ones I mentioned in the previous section, they might be open to accepting it.

Even if they are not ready to accept it, go ahead and talk to their superior or manager about it. Try to explain how you have brought up these issues directly with them, but didn’t get through to them. Get everyone together in a room and have a conversation. Fight it out and explain why your viewpoint makes sense. If they give competing arguments, make sure to listen it out.

Any company who boasts of creative and openness (everyone does right?) will be ready to accept proper criticism. If they don’t accept critical feedback, ask them to go read my other post about accepting feedback.

What other tips do you have about giving feedback? Leave them in the comments below.

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