Delivering feedback compassionately

In the short span of my career, I have seen two kinds of people – those who give great feedback such that the other person is encouraged to improve and those that only rip apart the other person.

The effects that these two folks have on you are very different not in the “guidance” they share, but in how they affect your motivation to improve.

If you are truly interested in the other person learning, be sure to see areas where they have done well and call it out to balance your feedback. Being overly critical to the point of even personally attacking the recipient can damage their self-confidence, motivation and drive to excel – all of which are detrimental to your objective of them improving.

Having been a culprit of giving harsh feedback myself, and having received some harsh feedback in my journey so far, I’ve learned to manage these both better in a few ways:

When giving feedback, always call out the good things. It is not possible that you cannot find one good thing about the work of a person. The least you can appreciate is their effort and intent to do the job in the first place. By ignoring all the nice things and focussing ONLY on improvement, you’re dampening their spirit. If someone does not feel seen or heard, chances are high that they’ll be too emotional about the feedback to even process it for what it is.

When giving negative feedback especially, notice the way you deliver this feedback. The words, the tone and the facial expressions you choose matter. If you feel deep inside that the piece of work is stupid and if you allow for that to come through, it demeans the other person. No matter your intellectual ability, it makes the other person feel horrible and they might just resort to rejecting everything else that you say because they’re feeling horrible. It is important for you to know that this piece of work does not define the individual. That there is no reason for you to be condescending to them and that you owe them the basic respect even when communicating your concerns with the work. It is important that you be compassionate in delivering the harshest of feedback and make them feel that you are truly sharing this in their best interest, and not to rip them apart.

Perhaps the one thing to take away here is the role of compassion. Bear in mind the larger purpose within which you’re trying to give feedback and choose the best way to deliver that feedback so that the outcome of them thinking about it is realised instead of having them mull over the sad feeling you’ve left them with.