Ask yourself and others:

How do others think I contribute to the team? Does the climate allow us to talk to others about how I think they work? What can I do to open up a constructive dialogue? How can I share and talk about how I feel? What can I do to show that I am willing to listen to others’ thoughts and feelings?

The aim of feedback is to help yourself and others to do a better job or keep on doing the great job you’re already doing. You want good for one another. It is not about blaming or being right. It is about having a constructive and honest dialogue. The aim of helping each other gives people the opportunity to develop an already suitable mode of behavior and attitude and to change any less suitable behavior if their attention is drawn to it in a constructive way.

It is perhaps easy to misinterpret the feedback you get if you mix up what you do with who you are. Giving feedback is about what you do and not about who you are. Feedback is about your behaviors and what you can do to approve the collaboration in a group by altering your behaviors. There are ways to give and receive feedback to make it easier to distinguish and really see that the feedback is about what you do and not about your worth as a person.

What constitutes effective feedback?


Give an accurate description of the behavior you are talking about, and about what you’d like to see instead.  “I feel like you’re not listening to me when you finish my sentences for me: you did that a few times when we were talking about the project plan. I’d prefer to finish what I’m saying before you add your points.”

Not Judging or Labelling:

Don’t use labeling words to describe a person. Move your attention to what they are doing or saying – don’t judge their character or motives “You are autocratic.” “You are inflexible.” “You do this bit – you are creative.”


Concentrate on things that can be changed, and link your feedback to the task or role. “It’s frustrating for me to lose valuable time with you: if you arrive late, we can’t discuss everything we aimed for. It’s important for us to get this right because the team needs a good decision from us.”

Not Person Focused:

Don’t direct your comments to personality, character, attitude, or things the person can’t change – like their personal circumstances or something in the past. “This is exactly what caused the trouble last time. If you could work early shifts we could meet at 7 am and this would be solved.”

Clear and Direct:

Use plain, clear language. Choose phrases the person will understand. Be brief and to the point. Successful feedback is easy to understand. “It’s important for the whole team to understand the impact of wide-screen on our future development plans. I’ve noticed that you haven’t kept your team up to date on this. I’d like you to include wide-screen updates in all your team meetings.”

Not Vague or Ambiguous:

Don’t give clues, or simply what you want to say. If the person has to guess what you mean, they may guess wrongly. Poor feedback leaves the recipient in doubt about what you meant. “Well it’s fairly obvious what’s going wrong here, isn’t it?”


The signal that you would like to give some feedback, and why you want to give it – and wait for the person to accept the offer. “Can I talk to you about the start of our meeting today – would you like to hear some feedback and my ideas? I’d like us to try and get more out of our meetings. Can we talk about how we can achieve more?

Not Imposed:

Don’t launch into what you want to say, without invitation.


Speak for yourself – show that these words and feelings are your own. “I notice; I would like; I don’t like.”

“I feel worried about what you said. It would help me if I could ask you about it so I can understand what you meant.”

Not Side-Stepped:

Don’t mix up your own thoughts and feelings with other people. You can’t be sure about what others think – unless you ask them directly. “Everyone clearly feels uncomfortable about your actions.”

“We all know you never listen.” / “I haven’t really seen this myself, but I know people think that…”


Be clear about the aspect of the person’s performance or behavior that you want to talk about.

“When we started our meeting, you seemed to interrupt quite often when I was explaining the problem I had. I didn’t feel listened to. Perhaps it would be more effective if I gave you the full picture first.”

Not Generalised:

Don’t talk about every aspect of a person or the way they do their job. “As usual you’ve ignored what I have to say. You never listen.”


Include a positive message to balance points about less effective behavior. “Your contribution was really useful – I like the way you gave lots of relevant examples, but I didn’t find your summary at the end very clear. It would have been clearer for me if I had more dates and details.”

Not One-Sided:

Don’t start with a negative, or talk only about what you don’t like. “You lost us all in the end, that was a waste of an opportunity.”

Timely and Regular:

Talk to the person at an appropriate moment soon after the incident you want to talk about. Offer feedback often – as an everyday habit. You’ll develop your skills and your team will get used to dealing with feedback positively. “Can I catch some time with you after the meeting? I’d like to talk to you about how it went.”

Not Rare:

Don’t wait until the incident has gone stale. Don’t save your remarks to deliver all at once. If you make feedback a rare event – you won’t get enough practice at delivering it; and perhaps more importantly your team won’t be practised at dealing with problems head-on, in an open, non-judgemental environment. “I’ve been wanting to tell you how badly I think you’ve handled this for some time…”

Solution Focused:

Show that you’re willing to give ideas about how the person can tackle the issues you have raised.

” Because of the implications of wide-screen developments on our future activities, it would be good for you to ensure the whole team understands the issues. Can we discuss some ideas about how we can make this work in practice…”

Not Problem Focused:

Don’t launch into what you want to say, without invitation. “If you don’t tell them what’s happening they won’t be able to let you know the implications for their areas and we risk a disaster on the day.”

Barriers to the Feedback Process:

Feedback is not always easy to give or receive. The giver and receiver both need to be open to receiving feedback and open to the possibility that the feedback being given may be based on incorrect assumptions. When both parties believe that the feedback has a positive intent, you can focus on the message and not rush through it. But before you focus on the message, you often have to work through negative attitudes or associations.

You may find it difficult to give feedback because you:

  • Believe that feedback is negative and unhelpful
  • Worry that the other person will not like you
  • Believe that the other person cannot handle the feedback
  • Have had previous experiences in which the receiver didn’t change or was hostile to feedback
  • Feel the feedback isn’t worth the risk

Receiving corrective feedback may be difficult because you:

  • Have the urge to rationalize, since the criticism can feel uncomfortable
  • Believe that your self-worth is diminished by suggestions for improvement
  • Have had previous experiences in which feedback was unhelpful or unjustified

Feedback Skills:

Skilled people make feedback a positive experience, leaving everyone feeling valued, even if the feedback itself is difficult or negative. If feedback is delivered badly, or not at all, the impact can be demoralizing and long-lasting.

Whether the message you intend to give is “positive” or “negative” (positive or negative is always your interpretation since you cannot take responsibility for how others will interpret what you say to them), the skill you use to give it will still affect the impact you have. A message you intend to be positive can demoralize someone if they walk away feeling confused. A tough message about poor performance can leave a person feeling supported and motivated if you deliver it with skill.

Try to concentrate on the following areas, whenever you are in a feedback situation:

Active listening:

Listen attentively, in order to understand another person’s viewpoint, perspective, needs and feelings


Be aware of how people talk, speak, move, react. Try to describe this accurately.

Clear verbal expression:

Use direct language; choose words appropriate to the listener.

Structure your message:

Introduce the conversation: sets the context; explains the issue; summarises the discussion; and ends on a positive.

Plan and prepare your message:

Think in advance about the time, place and content of the conversation


Be aware of the other person’s needs and priorities. Choose breaks or quiet moments to talk – avoid catching people when they are in a hurry, or preoccupied or too busy. Allow them time to absorb and think.


Be aware of your own feelings; aware of what you find difficult; aware of your limits; and be able to talk about these.


Try not to take things personally. Learn from the experience.


Express your needs, feelings, and opinions in an honest, direct, and appropriate way. Take ownership of your comments. Show awareness that other people have different perspectives, whilst explaining their own position.

The I-message:

There is an effective way of giving feedback which is known as the I-message. This is because the person opening the discussion works from their own personal basis and requirements and uses the “I” form to give feedback.

Effective feedback is a way to create a dialogue with greater clarity. It focuses on two things: honest self-expression — exposing what matters to oneself in a way that’s likely to inspire compassion in others, and empathy — listening actively. Effective feedback advocates that in order to understand each other, the parties express themselves in objective and neutral terms (talking about their factual observations, feelings, and needs) rather than in judgmental terms (such as good versus bad, right versus wrong, or fair versus unfair). Using the I-message and working with honest self-expression follows four steps:

  • Making neutral observations (distinguished from interpretations/evaluations),
  • Expressing feelings (emotions separate from reasons and interpretation),
  • Expressing needs (deep motives) and
  • Making requests (clear, concrete, feasible, and without an explicit or implicit demand).

Practicing effective feedback means that one listens carefully and patiently to others, even when speaker and listener are in conflict. The listener may show empathy for the speaker by responding with reworded versions of the speaker’s own statements (“I hear you saying that….”) and attempting to recognize the needs motivating the speaker’s words (“It sounds like you need….”).

As a rule, the I-messages means that even quite sensitive issues can be brought up for dialogue without any unnecessary misunderstandings arising. Because I-messages are free of hidden meanings, insinuations, hints, diagnoses, or guilt issues, the recipient does not need to feel threatened and doesn’t need to adopt a defensive position.

Thoughts on receiving feedback:

Receiving feedback can be just as hard as giving it. Feedback can make us blush, it can make us try to disregard our own significance by shrugging off praise, etc. Feedback can trigger a need to explain or defend because your own perception of a situation often differs from that of the person giving the feedback.

Common pitfalls to avoid when receiving feedback:

  • You get defensive
  • You try to prove them wrong
  • You feel you have to do something to change yourself
  • You give an answer to justify yourself
  • You dismiss the information
  • You feel helpless to do anything about what you heard
  • You change the focus and attack the speaker
  • You generalize the message and feel bad about everything
  • You generalize the message and think you’re perfect at everything

For the communication to remain open and to encourage continuing feedback, it is important to make the effort to listen to the feedback given. In this way, we show that feedback is welcome, even if it may be unpleasant. At the same time, we are also showing the person giving the feedback that we respect the way they feel about our behavior.

In this instance, listening is the same thing as staying quiet. Look at the person and try to understand what they want to say. Once we have received the feedback, we can use dialogue to clear up any misunderstandings.

The various ways of receiving feedback can be illustrated through the “Feedback steps”:

  • Change, Reinforce, Remain: Process the feedback and make my own conscious choice
  • Understand: Listen, accept
  • Explain: “Yes, but…”
  • Defend: “No, that’s not how it was”
  • Discard: “This has nothing to do with me”

Remember that feedback is high-value information. It is worth listening to with active, full attention. Hearing feedback can:

  • Help you become aware of how you are getting on – the good and the bad, what’s working and not
  • Give you some ideas to help you plan your own development, in order to reach your full potential
  • Give you a “reality check” – you can compare how you think you are, with what other people tell you

The information you hear may be new, surprising. You may react with strong emotion. Feedback doesn’t need an answer or a defense from you. Good feedback is an offer of information, not a diagnosis of your character or potential.

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Article updated on: 15 April 2024