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How To Give Feedback That Is Constructive and Well-Received

Here's how to turn your negative feedback into something others are actually begging for.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Here’s a brutal truth: Everyone hates to be criticized, but negative feedback is the most valuable feedback you can get. It’s how we grow, how we learn about our blind spots and perspective gaps. And even when it’s off-base, it’s a valuable window into the thinking of others. That’s why everyone should learn to see most negative feedback as a gift.

Of course, most people don’t see things this way. Even when criticism is constructive, they view it as an attack. And who can blame them? They’ve poured their heart and soul into their work; the last thing they want to hear is that it isn’t good enough, or that something’s wrong.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

But there’s a way to turn your negative feedback into something others are actually begging for. How? All it takes is a little emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand emotions and how they work, and then to use that knowledge to help yourself and others. Put simply, it’s the ability to make emotions work for you, instead of against you.

By using two simple questions, you can transform your negative feedback from something the recipient feels is hurtful, into something that’s helpful.

How do you feel about…?

It’s such a simple question, but it’s extremely effective:

How do you feel about the presentation you gave yesterday?

How do you feel about your new assignment?

How do you feel things are going on this project?

By giving the other person a chance to speak first, you give them a chance to express themselves-;the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sure, they’re probably wondering what you think about their presentation, or how their doing on the new assignment, or how things are going on this project. They may even already know they’re in over their head, or that they need help.

And here’s where you have a chance to gain their trust-;by giving them some praise.

Tell them something they’ve done well, and why you appreciate it. Tell them what you’ve learned from them, or something you feel they really excel at. 

The more specific, the better.

You’re bound to get a smile out of the recipient. At the same time, they’ll lower their guard because they’ll see you as someone who’s on their side.

At this point, the last thing you want to do is misuse the trust you’ve gained to attack…which is why the phrasing of the second question is so important:

Can I also share some constructive feedback with you?

By asking for permission, you give a degree of control to the recipient. Of course, they could say no…but I’ve never met someone who did.

Instead, they’re happy to hear anything that can help make them better. And because you’ve already shown that you’re on their side, they believe that you can actually help.

You still have to be careful what you say next. The key is to put yourself on the same level as the recipient. Say something like, “I used to have this problem until someone pointed it out to me-;and it completely changed my approach.” Of course, you have to be sincere.

Remember, all of your people have gifts and talents. It’s your job to see that potential, and bring out the best in them.

And these two questions will help you to do just that.

Enjoy this post? Check out my book, EQ Applied, which uses fascinating research and compelling stories to illustrate what emotional intelligence looks like in everyday life.

A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.

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