Giving feedback is one of the hardest skills to master. It is also one of the most valuable. Given and received in the right spirit, it builds skills, creates a shared understanding of values and performance standards, and builds relationships.  Given in the wrong way, it, at best has no effect and at worst damages relationships. 

Having sat in on many feedback sessions, here are the most common mistakes that feedback givers make:

1. talk at the other person, giving a barrage of thoughts and ideas that after about thirty seconds become meaningless to the interlocutor. 

2. Talk too much, perhaps asking a couple of questions but not encouraging reflection and not taking the other person’s needs into account

3. Only gives feedback in negative situations: that is, it is always focused on what the other person needs to improve, or worse, does wrong. 

4. At the other extreme, the feedback is positive but too effusive, and thus comes over as insincere. 

5. Insist that the other person ‘admits’ their error or, weakness, when really it is only the way forward or, the change that it is necessary to agree on.

6. Discuss what needs to change without discussing how.

7. Come across as formulaic, either quoting set textbook phrases, or seeming to follow a set pattern.

8. Talk about what the other person needs to ‘improve.’ High achievers, especially, want challenges and development. Talking about improvement is like showing a red rag to a bull.

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©Janice Caplan 2020