Feedback: To Give or Not to Give, That is the Question!

Because the Feedback conversation isn’t over: This is brought to you by Dr. Linda Miller

Recently I was asked to give feedback to a colleague who I’ve known for many years and respect deeply. I was pleased with the request, yet I was concerned.  If I gave her the feedback, what would she think? Would it hurt our working relationship and friendship?  Would it really make a difference?

The answers to each of the questions have been surprising.

What would she think? My colleague let me know that although the feedback was hard to take, it was appreciated, and it confirmed other feedback she had received.  She commented that if I hadn’t said anything, she wouldn’t have realized how important it was for her to change.  And, change she did! Immediately. My respect deepened.

Would it hurt our friendship? Because of her response, giving the feedback has drawn us closer. Recently she called, and I was thrilled to hear from her. Then, she said she was calling to thank me.

Would it really make a difference? My colleague said that this has changed her life.  The feedback was on her outer appearance. By her report, not only is she different on the outside, she’s different on the inside, and it’s changed her professionally.  She reports that the feedback has made a huge difference.

I’ve thought a lot about our feedback conversation since then. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

  1. I’ve learned not to withhold feedback when it might be useful.
  2. Timing is important, of course, as is permission to share.  My friend wanted the feedback and received it as a gift. That was a gift (and a relief!) back to me.
  3. Sharing feedback has to be done carefully. I spent time thinking of what to share, and more importantly HOW to share the feedback.
  4. If the feedback didn’t go well, I would have gladly apologized for any errors on my part.  Let’s be honest — it doesn’t always go well. When that happens, I have to look at what part I’ve played and take responsibility.
  5. I keep wondering why I don’t ask for feedback more often. What’s with us that we are afraid of learning things that might make us better and more effective human beings?
  6. If I hadn’t shared, my colleague would have missed the opportunity to grow and change in ways that she desired. And, who knows how these changes are going to impact her life and the people in it!

One thought on “Feedback: To Give or Not to Give, That is the Question!

  1. I have found giving feedback is best delivered in 5 steps

    Describe the observed behavior
    Check for reactions. Ask questions.
    Ask for ideas on how to improve
    Reassure. Express confidence
    Summarize agreements and set a follow up mtg

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