To give or not to give? Effective Feedback

A crucial life-skill which one can learn and inculcate in life

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“True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes.”

                                                                                                                 – Daniel Kahneman

I used to watch the show “Yede Tumbi Haaduvenu” during my college days. It was conducted by the legendary singer, S. P. Balasubrahmanyam. In those days, young talents were given opportunities to showcase their singing calibre and it was being judged by S.P.B himself. I did observe that giving feedback was a crucial part of the programme and it was being given with utmost care and caution as the receivers on the other end happened to be young minds. SPB was lavish with praises when it came to fantastic performances, gentle when it came to mentioning the areas of improvement and strict at times when the performance did not meet the basic standards.

The above picture has remained in my mind ever since and I am now recollecting it as I write about … I would rather say “one of the life skills” ie giving feedback.

One of the most crucial factors which does aid our growth rather than stunt it is the evergreen feedback factor. Knowingly or unknowingly, we do give it on a daily basis. The situations range from a simple “How was the dish?” to a highly structured performance appraisal. Take a few minutes at the end of each day to reflect on the various situations in your own 24-hour frame which included the feedback factor. You will be surprised to find that they were quite a lot of them.

I am sure that there is a wealth of information out there regarding best practices, techniques, ‘n’ no. of articles about performance reviews and so on. Now, I will not get into any of those! My intention of writing this blog is simple – inspite of a wealth of resources available, why do we still hesitate to give effective feedback at times?

The reasons could be many … Here, I am going to share a few of them from my own perspective and life experience. You are more than welcome to add value to it going forward

Coming to the point … From my experience, what I have observed is that we may have the intent and the content to give truly effective feedback but when the time comes, we tend to step back. Have you been in a similar situation? I am not an exception either

More often than not, a chain of limiting thoughts often ties us up

“How do I give feedback to someone supposedly senior to me?”

“They will anyway not take it seriously. So why give it in the first place?”

“If I point out his/her flaws, they might not take it in a positive way. So, why take a risk?”

“He/she is my friend. How can I give feedback?”

“Let me heap praises on him/her. They will take only positive feedback anyway.”

Have any of these thoughts or similar ones popped up in your mind when the time came for you to give effective feedback? If yes … I would suggest – break the chain!

How do I give feedback to someone supposedly senior to me? So what if you need to give feedback to someone senior to you? As long as what you do say adds value to the other person, it’s fine. Infact, it will make you even more confident. Also, a time might come when you inturn need to be at the receiving end. At such times, it will help you become more receptive for the feedback from a younger mind.

“They will anyway not take it seriously” – Never make assumptions. It’s not your role anyway. Just focus on giving valuable tips for improvement. Taking it or not is left to the one at the receiving end.

If I point out his/her flaws … The Fear Factor – One of the common reasons why people do hesitate from expressing their views about others is the fear of how they might receive it. If you are in the same boat then, stop! Just think about the future situation when you do not help the person understand what’s not going on too well either in their work or life. Not making them understand their shortcomings will only make their situation worse or their progress nil. So, when you try to cover up your fear by not giving an honest feedback, you are only ruining chances of improvement for them. Do you really want that to happen?

No … right? Then, go ahead and give your feedback.

He/she is my friend … Emotional connect! Still, do not hesitate from stating your views boldly. Giving effective feedback is a sign that you truly care. So … why hesitate?

Let me heap praises on him/her … It’s not that they will only take positive feedback. The issue lies in you! Are you capable of pointing out areas which actually need to be turned around for the better? Think about it!

I would say that the above reactions are merely excuses we tend to give ourselves to cover up for our own fears, lack of clarity, low confidence in expressing our views, not knowing how to give it, lack of observation, poor listening skills and the most important factor amongst all – lack of understanding that giving effective feedback is actually a huge chunk of our growth journey!

The reasons for why we hesitate to give feedback could vary from individual to individual. You are obviously the best judge for that!

Now, having found out the root cause for our hesitation, the time has come to work on giving it effectively. Like I mentioned earlier, there are numerous resources available for the same regarding various techniques. However, the key here is to COMMUNICATE your feedback effectively. Convey the feedback in such a way that the other person actually understands and takes it! Give it in such a way that it motivates people to take the required action. That’s where the real challenge lies!

How do you do that?

Take the person aside. Help him/her visualize the situation. Pinpoint the areas where something went wrong or could have been done better and suggest points for improvement.

In other words, “Focus on the issue, not the person!” – I often call it the Feedback Mantra. Apply this in every aspect of your life – personal, professional and social. This is not something new actually. As many of you are already aware, it’s the foundation for problem-solving. Apply the same principle in the feedback area too! It works like a charm. Sometimes, people might take some time to understand. However, it will not have a negative impact.

Tip: Don’t expect people to accept your feedback immediately. Give them some time to understand and let it sink in.

This brilliant article by Jon Windust focuses on how to make giving feedback less stressful.

Your theoretical knowledge about various ways of giving feedback might be vast but it all comes down to “Can you apply it in your daily life effectively at home, in the workplace and in social circles?”

Practice this life-skill till it becomes a part of your personality. You may not be able to measure it’s positive impact quantitatively but you will surely start noticing the difference it makes to others and to you too in the long run.

Authored by Sushma Krishnan

Co-Founder, High Performance Alchemy

Originally published at

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