The ABCs of Constructive Feedback

Justyna Hus
18 May 2022
4 min read

You’ve probably heard much about the importance of ‘feedback’. But have you ever wondered what it is, exactly, and how you might share it so as to motivate others and help them grow? 

Feedback is simply the critical information - positive or negative - we receive or give other people, our coworkers, supervisors of peers regarding their actions or behaviors. 

But the purpose of feedback should not be to point out the flaws or mistakes of other people. Rather, it should motivate them, recognize areas for future development and encourage growth. 

Effective feedback requires not only good communication skills, but the provision of specific actions one can relate to. It also calls for appropriate timing and emotional intelligence on both sides. 

Whether this is positive or constructive feedback, there are a few important rules worth pointing out when you want to share valuable feedback with others. 

4 Golden Rules Of Feedback

  1. Make it specific 

When giving feedback, avoid using blank, general comments. More specific feedback gives clarity and ensures that the receiver understands the impact of his or her actions. 

Focus on one particular issue or behavior, describe it and express your opinion about it. Keep in mind to always refer to actions and not attitudes, personality traits or character. 

Instead of saying: “You are always late to the meetings”, try: “I noticed that last week you joined 3 of our daily meetings late. Those meetings are especially important since we are able to update each other on the progress we’ve made. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to make sure next time you will be able to join the meeting on time”.

  1. Feedback Is A Two-Way Street 

Once you’ve shared your feedback, remember always to give space to the other person to acknowledge, understand and process it. Leave time for the other person to comment or even disagree with your opinion. 

Make sure that you've created a safe space for conversation. 

To ensure that your feedback was properly understood, don’t hesitate to ask additional questions or request a summary. As examples, you can try asking: “Should we recap the most important parts of our conversation?”, “Is there anything that is unclear for you?”, “Do you want me to repeat something?” or “Feel free to let me know what you think”.

  1. Timing Is Everything 

Try to find the best possible time to share your thoughts with your colleague. Feeding back in the heat of the moment is rarely ideal as it will likely be affected by the emotions and vulnerability felt on both sides. 

At the same time, you should not keep your feedback to yourself as certain relevant details surrounding the situation can fade from memory with the passage of time. 

Instead, find a time after emotions have subsided when you are more even-minded for recounting these details. 

Remember, through regular positive feedback you engage and motivate team members to continue in the positive contribution they make. 

Systematic, constructive feedback also provides the opportunity for improvement at any point where difficulty or conflict arises. 

Tip: If you are not able to meet with a person face-to-face, it’s often better to write than to wait.

  1. Advise And Follow-Up

Once your team member has had a chance to acknowledge and respond, make time to create a solution for sustaining his or her good working practices. 

After acknowledging areas for improvement, the next step should be to find ways to enhance their skills and working habits. Be open to advice, make recommendations, then discuss these areas requiring improvement.

The first objective of the feedback process is always to determine “where we are now”. Solutions to any outstanding issues can then be considered.

Tip: Remember to keep the conversation going by following up - avoid treating feedback conversations as a one-and-done. 

Giving feedback is neither easy nor intuitive and as with any skill, practice makes perfect. 

So that you develop your communication skills for the solid and sustained support of your colleagues, it is crucial that you give regular feedback whilst remaining open to receiving it yourself. 

The practice of providing positive, constructive feedback ultimately becomes an ideal medium for learning and the acquisition of new skills. As such, it benefits the provider, the receiver and in turn, your entire organization.  


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