Often we hold back from giving feedback to others, even when it’s important to us and to the health of our relationship. Maybe we’re afraid we’ll hurt their feelings even if it's constructive, or we’re afraid of their reaction. Or maybe we think they’ll feel we’re criticizing them. But if we don’t give others feedback, we may hold on to resentment or anger toward them, which can spill over into later communications and even cause distance in our relationship.
Let's look at how to improve communication skills so we can feel more confident in giving constructive feedback.
In all our relationships, whether it’s our spouse, our boss, or a friend, we depend on positive feedback and negative feedback to grow. So it’s important to realize that in denying feedback to others, we deny them the opportunity to develop in areas where they need help. Feedback only hurts others when we don’t offer it in a loving way. If we want to create thriving relationships, we need to support each other’s highest and best by holding them accountable to be better and offering helpful and respectful feedback.
How to Give Feedback Successfully
Here are some tips in discerning how to give helpful feedback and how to approach another person in a way that our feedback will be more readily received.
STEP 1: Prepare yourself so you can express feedback from the heart. Ask yourself, “Will this feedback create good will or create distance?” If the answer is “distance,” check in with your emotions, intention, and motivation. If you’re upset, resolve your inner battles before talking with the person. When you’re calmer, think of three things you admire or love about the person, or bring to mind a pleasant memory of that person. This process will increase the likelihood of delivering your message from the heart.
STEP 2: Set yourself up to succeed by carefully choosing the timing of the conversation. Ask the person, “Is now a good time to talk?” If it isn’t, ask when would be a better time. Be sure to allow enough time to talk, especially if the relationship is strained or if you expect the conversation to be difficult.
STEP 3: Give your feedback respectfully. Keep your feedback concise, friendly, and calm. Avoid sarcasm, subtle putdowns, and comparisons. Focus on the situation and the behavior, not the person.
STEP 4: Allow the person a chance to respond. Be open and willing to listen to their response.
STEP 5: Brainstorm possible solutions or offer specific actions that will help. Pay attention to the person’s receptivity. Were they open to your feedback? If they reacted defensively, it’s not an appropriate time to look for solutions. Give each other time to calm down, and circle back to touch base later.
Following these steps will help create honest and strong communication, enhance calmer conversations when disagreements arise, and improve your interpersonal skills while enhancing relationships. Honest, sincere, and respectful communication, practiced consistently with courage and kindness, will strengthen our families, businesses, and communities.