Feedback can be difficult to give to others. Receiving feedback can be even more difficult to accept. In both circumstances, negative feedback, or constructive criticism, is the most difficult to give or receive. Our natural instinct is to avoid or procrastinate providing negative feedback. My own rule of thumb for providing feedback, especially negative, is to do so only if it is first of all solicited, and secondly if the position that I have been given requires it.
If someone directly asks or solicits your feedback, clarify and confirm that your honest feedback is indeed what they are asking you to provide. By confirming their desire, you will know that they are truly ready to receive your feedback. Sometimes people may not actually want your feedback; they may just want to unload their own thoughts while you listen. Some may just want to talk through a problem solving the issue themselves. I have learned that in this situation, my best option is to keep silent and truly listen.
Now, if your position requires that you provide feedback, take a pro-active approach. Roles that require your feedback include manager, parent, business coach, teacher, consultant, customer, etc. These jobs require that you provide frequent feedback, and your intent should always be for the good of the recipient.
In order to take a pro-active approach, make sure those receiving your feedback clearly understand your expectations up front. Schedule routine evaluations to provide feedback. If you manage people, have a monthly one-on- one meeting and discuss three things: 1) What is going well, 2) what is not going very well, and 3) action items for the next 30 days. Create a comfortable atmosphere for sharing information with open communication. This type of pro- active approach will help in two ways: 1) Since any issues were addressed throughout the year, you will not have a surprised employee at the time of their yearly performance review; and 2) The employee will be happy to get regular positive feedback as well as appreciate the opportunity to know what they can improve to better impact the business and their performance throughout the year. This same pro-active approach also works with helping your child and their grades in school. Have check points in place throughout the semester or quarter. Don’t wait until the end of the semester to discover a problem when it is too late to fix it.
When you do provide feedback to others, be humble and place yourself in the other person’s shoes. Practice the Golden Rule of “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Encourage and show love. You could be a positive influence to someone else’s professional growth and development. By just giving regular feedback you have the ability to help someone become better than either of you ever imagined.