We are all asked to give feedback by others. Some are placators, giving generic praise whether it’s warranted or not. Others have a habit of going on a warpath, finding anything and everything wrong in excruciating detail. It’s understandable why many punt: giving honest, helpful feedback is a lot of work. It requires time, attention, and diplomacy. We have four questions to ask yourself before giving feedback.
What are they asking? Read between the lines to suss out what they are actually seeking. A request for feedback might actually be someone’s asking for permission, help, or approval. If the sender is actually offering a status-update, listing everything you find problematic about a project will not be productive.
What is my most important observation? We always see a lot of things we would do differently. You gain credibility—and increase your chances of being heard—by editing your list and distilling your message down to one or two key points. Whether criticism or praise, your message will carry more weight when you are thoughtful and selective.
What is my motivation? It is always important to step back and consider why you are reacting the way you are. Are you seeking to show that you’re the smartest person in the department or are you genuinely motivated by a desire to improve the project?
What might be the results of my silence? Sometimes giving negative feedback can be very uncomfortable; however, saving someone from an embarrassing outcome can be the kindest thing to do. Conversely, keeping your snide comments to yourself can help a department function more smoothly. Consider the outcome from the outset.