Has anyone ever told you how to do something that you’ve already done, and they came across as very critical?

Well, they might call it constructive criticism. Personally, I think that “constructive” and “criticism” is a bit of an oxymoron. They don’t go well together.

The goal of giving feedback is to make sure that the receiver feels, encouraged, empowered, and excited.

Negativity should be kept out of giving feedback.

So, here are 7 keys to giving productive feedback:

1. Observe your language patterns – the words that you use while providing feedback carry a lot of weight. Avoid using generic words of positivity such as “good, fantastic, marvellous, excellent, and brilliant”. Instead, use words that are more descriptive. Words such as “effective, appropriate, timely, clear, insightful, useful, and thorough”. Using descriptive words, and avoiding vague words provides clarity to the receiver of the feedback. Also, avoid using words that are emotive, especially when providing suggestions on how to do things better. Emotive words will not work for everyone, and your emotions may not be felt by the receiver of the feedback. Instead of being emotional, be logical. Be as specific as you can.

2. Ask questions – sometimes we jump to a conclusion about why the person did what they did. Instead of doing that, ask questions to gain clarity on why the person did what they did. If you wish to give someone feedback that will make them feel empowered, encouraged, and excited, then work with them to understand why they did what they did. And, while asking the question(s), ask in a way that shows that you are seeking clarity, instead of putting them down. For example, a manager is giving feedback to his/her subordinate on a report that they did. Instead of asking “Why the hell are you using different colours and different fonts on the last page?”, the manager could ask “Please tell me, what is the reason for using different colours and different fonts on the last page?”

3. Listen – giving feedback without listening may not be very effective. In a one-on-one scenario, it is advisable to give a piece of feedback, and ask the receiver of the feedback for their input. At times, that person may become defensive. Your goal is to make sure that you clearly explain your role – helping that person to improve. Ask for clarity while giving feedback. Two questions that I ask are 1.) “Does that make sense?” 2.) “Can you see where I am going with this?”

4. Avoid overload – sometimes, less is more. Your goal is not for the person to walk away, feeling overwhelmed. Be clear on the number of points that you wish to discuss with the person. Stick to that number, and give the feedback in chunks of ‘digestible’ information. As a coach, mentor, and staff trainer, my goal is to keep the number of points to a level that the person will be able to comprehend, and not feel overwhelmed by. Determine what the most important thing in your feedback is, and mostly focus on that.

5. Show and tell – yes, don’t just tell them what to do, show them how to do it (whenever possible). Leading by example is something that I have always been very emphatic on. If you can show the person how it could be done, they will be in a better position to do it next time. When I joined Toastmasters International many years ago, I loved how they demonstrated the “points for improvement”.

6. Show respect and protect self-esteem – uphold respect for the person and for what they did, even if you didn’t like what they did. Remember, the goal of providing feedback is to make sure that the receiver feels, encouraged, empowered, and excited. Feedback has the power to make people, and feedback has the power to break people. Showing respect and protecting self esteem is especially important when providing feedback to children. Show respect with your voice, your choice of words, and your body language.

7. Finish with a positive – this is a big one. End the feedback with something that will make the person feel valued. That way, they will be more likely to take on board the suggestions that you have provided to them. Also, this step will make them more receptive to feedback from you in the future. If the person has made an error, focus on the solution, not the problem. As feedback expert John Hattie said “Errors need to be welcomed: The exposure to errors in a safe environment can lead to higher performance.” The person must feel the praise as much as they feel the suggestions.

Quote: “Feedback when given well should not alienate the receiver of the feedback, but should motivate them to perform better.” - M.O., Manager”

These are just some basic suggestions that will help you in improving on providing productive feedback. There are many other steps and methods to providing productive feedback, which you could research and utilise.

I hope I have given you a simple insight into giving productive feedback.

Inspiring you towards your excellence,


PS: I have just launched a series of personal development videos called Welcome To Your Life. Here is Episode 8 (How To Enhance Personal Growth) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrXFQ-EB4Rc

Author's Bio: 

Ronny Prasad is the author of the bestseller, WELCOME TO YOUR LIFE - simple insights for your inspiration & empowerment (www.WelcomeToYourLifeBook.com). He is also an inspired speaker who empowers his audience with his enthusiasm and energy. His passion is inspiring and fulfilling lives, and sharing his insights with people around the world. He actively supports animal charities in many countries.