How to give constructive feedback

Posted by on Oct 7, 2011 in Career Management | 14 comments

Maintaining positive, healthy relationships requires good communication and constructive feedback. Many of us shy away from sharing feedback, while others share it a little too freely. Giving constructive criticism appropriately is not easy for most of us- myself included!

What is constructive criticism?
Dictionary.com defines constructive as:

1. constructing or tending to construct; helping to improve; promoting further development or advancement ( opposed to destructive): constructive criticism.

The value behind constructive criticism is to inform our development, creativity and advancement. Constructive criticism is never intended to belittle, minimize, condescend or harm another person.

I appreciate when others share constructive feedback with me. It helps me strengthen working relationships, build trust, and it helps me grow personally and professionally. Constructive criticism can offer the opportunity for discovery and solutions to problems that would otherwise continue to hold me back.

Recognizing the value I place on constructive feedback, I want to give constructive feedback that gives others the opportunity to be their best and enjoy positive working relationships.

Healthy constructive criticism is:

  • Timely
  • Specific
  • Reasonable
  • Constructive
  • Respectful
  • Necessary

 

When providing constructive feedback, consider your motives and emotions. If you are angry, resentful, frustrated, lonely, or tired, the feedback you intend to give may not be appropriate. Stop, take a deep breath, take care of yourself, and come back to give feedback later.

Recognize that your opinion is your own, neither right nor wrong. Other people have different experiences and different opinions and that’s okay. If you choose to share feedback, avoid placing your own personal preferences and expectations on others. They may be able to get the same job done, just as well, utilizing their own ideas and methods.

Here’s some questions to consider when providing constructive criticism:

Were their actions appropriate to the situation, given the information they had at the time?
Were their practices effective? What results did they get?
How were they successful in their efforts?
How were they unsuccessful?

When giving constructive feedback, it’s helpful to acknowledge what worked as well as what didn’t work. Many people think constructive feedback is negative, but it can be positive as well. Letting someone know what they are doing right helps them build on effective skills and techniques.

Remember, constructive feedback builds people up, not tears them down.

constructive feedback builds people up

I love your comments! Do you find it easy to give constructive criticism? Do you appreciate getting constructive feedback? How has it helped you grow?

image courtesy of Remara Photography

14 Comments

  1. I love constructive criticism! Not sure where I would be without it.

    I can remember when I started working at age 11, I told my boss, ‘never hesitate to tell me how to do something better – I want t learn’. I continued to say this to every boss I had until I started to work for myself.

    My theory is why suck, I could be better? I couldn’t understand the logic. If someone has something to share with me that will help me – then I want to know about it. You aren’t going to hurt my feelings! :)

    Thanks for this. CC is awesome. Though, I only give it to those who ask for it.
    Brock Blohm recently posted…I Guess It’s OK For NowMy Profile

    • Thanks for another great comment, Brock!

      Constructive criticism has really guided my growth, too. At least it did once I got over being so mortified that might have made a mistake or misstep. Thankfully my perfectionism was one of the shortcomings I was able to overcome.

      My goal has always been to be great and live a great life and sometimes the perspective of others can help me find a greatness in myself that I didn’t even know existed!

      Have an awesome day!

      Chrysta

  2. Hi Chryta,

    Constructive criticism is so hard to get these days. All we hear is biases prejudices and irrelevant comments. People who often comment without asking are themselves looking for some publicity.
    I can see many journalist in media providing unnecessary commentary without understanding the subject completely.

    Constructive criticism can really help us make new friends or win over the old friends. I have tried often to provide constructive criticism and also have got it from friends.

    I keep the tone low and indicate that it might be my personal opinion. And then I try to say it in the least argumentative way. It has never backfired and helped me win more friends.

    Thanks for sharing the great idea of constructive criticism :)
    Ashvini recently posted…Managing Business Paperwork: 10 important tipsMy Profile

    • Thanks for your comment, Ashvini!

      I agree that constructive criticism is often strongly influenced by biases and prejudice. The best constructive feedback is relevant, objective and honest. I like that you keep your tone low and suggest your opinion is yours. This allows others to really hear what you have to say, and take the best feedback from your words to put it good use.

      It’s also true that constructive feedback is an important communication tool. It absolutely can positively influence relationships when given appropriately. We tend to think constructive feedback is all negative, but it can be positive if we can set aside personalities and consider our principles instead.

      Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  3. I like the the necessity and respectful components of constructive feedback. Too often, I find that we are too polite to give real hard truths about the situation. We become too respectful of others. We fear hurting them with our comments. Therefore we hold back our truths. Doing this will simply make people fall deeper into their own ditch.

    Then there are others who are too blunt and show very little sensitivity. They throw in feedback that cause people to remain beaten for a long time.

    The key is to find a balance. Using methods like the sandwich method is good. I personally find that looking for and speaking about the good points first is important to let our opposite party feel valued. Beyond that, work on at most three constructive criticism that’s all. It will provide a nice balance.
    Jimmy recently posted…What has Justin Mazza Got to Say About Blogging for Personal Development?My Profile

    • Thanks for your comment, Jimmy!

      I think there’s a difference between respectful and honest and I don’t believe it’s possible to be too respectful. When I am considering what I have to say to someone I like to apply the THINK principle. If my words are Thoughtful, Honest, Intelligent, Necessary and Kind then I know the feedback I have to give is respectful and appropriate.

      Of course in all things balance is important, which is why I like the sandwich method. The sandwich method encourages me to look at the whole person, not just one situation, and this balances my own thoughts and perceptions before I give feedback. It’s important not only to the receiver, but the giver as well.

      Thanks again for your comment!

      Chrysta

  4. Hi Chrysta,

    This is a topic dear to my heart. Much of my work in the corporate world centred around training Managers and employees how to provide informal and formal feedback in the work performance context.

    I found that the word “feedback” was really sufficient to cover all bases since the moment one uses ‘criticism’ even if it is prefaced by the word ‘constructive’, defence barriers rise before a word has been spoken.

    As with all communication it’s often how the message is delivered that makes the difference. If one can provide useful information back to someone without this being compromised by conflicting attitudes, personal agendas and body language, most people are open to receiving what can help them be better.

    ~Marcus
    Marcus Baker recently posted…Want to Slow the World Down Sometimes?My Profile

    • Thanks for your comment, Marcus!

      The words “constructive criticism” certainly carry a charge and are often assumed to be negative, which is why I prefer the term feedback. That said, I think constructive feedback can be a great learning tool. I have learned a lot about myself from constructive feedback, and this knowledge has helped me learn and grow.

      I agree how the feedback is given is also very important. I live by the practice of placing principles above personalities, and I keep this practice in mind whenever I deal with others. It is a positive, kind and constructive practice that has served me well.

      Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  5. Hi Chrysta,

    Super stuff here.

    I think of CC as a suggestion, or feedback, or a different perspective. This takes the emotional charge out of the word.

    What is it? Simply another viewpoint. It might help, or not. Be open to these viewpoints. Never blindly follow a suggestion, without analyzing it first. Be objective. Be open. Realize, most people want to help. Some might lack tact, and offer a suggestion in a rude, or uncaring way. Still, be open. Listen. Learn.

    Maybe you can use the suggestion, maybe not.

    As for offering CC, care. Care about the person. Build up their confidence, telling them, what you like, what is working, and then softly offer your suggestion. What the person does with the suggestion, is up to them.

    Thanks!

    Ryan

    • Thanks for your comment, Ryan!

      I love the suggestions you’ve made to think of constructive criticism as a suggestion or simply a different perspective. It truly is just information that we can use in a variety of ways. Maybe the information helps us relate to another person, or maybe it is good feedback but we still choose our original solution.

      When I offer constructive criticism, I recognize that I own my words and my opinion is just one opinion. I don’t give my opinion away as if it belongs to someone else. Thinking this way certainly takes the edge off giving constructive feedback!

      Thanks again for your awesome comment! Have a great day!

      Chrysta

  6. Hello,

    I just learned of your interesting site through Blog Engage (BE) and am so happy I did. Please connect with me on BE with my name, ‘mypassion’. I write about similar things.

    Constructive feedback is so important today. I learned while raising my children that nothing should be done when angry or upset, so I try to take some time away from any situation and figure out what I want to say in a manner that will be well received. Thanks so much for this reminder. Sally
    Sally Brown recently posted…Creativity Arises From Our Inner SpiritMy Profile

    • Thanks for your comment, Sally!

      While constructive feedback is best when it’s timely, it’s usually not a good idea to communicate when angry or upset. I like to take a break to take care of myself first, and then come back to give feedback. Of course there are times that’s not always possible, and in those situations I try to at least pause to take a deep breath before responding. It’s also helpful for me to remember that I can often say, “I would like to think about this more before I respond. May I get back to you?”

      Huzzah to you for allowing yourself time and space to gain perspective before talking with your children. It sounds like you’re a great mom!

      Have a great day!

      Chrysta

  7. Chrysta, thanks for reminding us that constructive feedback is a another form of communication. I use what I call the “sandwich formula” where I highlight first what is working, what is going well and how much I appreciate the efforts before suggesting any change or new direction. This starts the conversation on a positive note and the other person is usually more receptive to hearing what I have to say. I also appreciate it when others provide constructive feedback to me in the same way.
    Gladys recently posted…Supercharge Good Self-Care PracticesMy Profile

    • Thanks for your comment, Gladys!

      The sandwich formula is a great way to give constructive criticism. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and the sandwich method highlights both. Often when someone is giving or receiving constructive feedback, the mood is negative and it doesn’t have to be.

      Thanks again for stopping by! Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

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