Not always—even when they ask for it. Their actions tell the real story. In fact, a speaker colleague of mine says boldly, “I never ask for feedback. I don’t care what the audience thinks. I’m trying to please only one person—the guy who hired me.”
Two cautions here before “helping” a colleague, friend, or family member out with some plan, project, or task:
- Make sure your ideas, suggestions, and information are welcome.
- Make sure you give those ideas and that feedback in the best way possible.
Consider these guidelines before plunging ahead:
6 Tips for Giving Feedback
Identify the Kind of Help They Want
Even if your colleague or friend has asked for your feedback, that doesn’t necessarily mean they always want it—at least delivered in the way you might offer it.
Before opening your mouth, probe to ask what they need or want from you? Your opinion? Information they don’t have? Access to your network of other experts? Or do they simply want your analytical help in coming to a decision or solution as they’ve already outlined it?
Quite often, they simply want your confirmation that they are on the right track—that you agree with their position or proposed action.
Get this first step wrong and you may experience a big rip in the relationship.
Focus on the Outcome They Want
It’s pointless to tell your colleague that others on the team agree with what you’re saying—IF that colleague doesn’t care about the most “popular” perspective.
Instead, open the discussion by asking questions: What do they hope to achieve? What seems to be going wrong or blocking their path to that end goal? What other options or alternatives have they tried and discarded?
Once you understand their end game and exactly what kind of help they want from you, you’re on solid ground to speak up.
Acknowledge That You Might Not Have All Available Facts
Even if you’ve presented a good case for your opinion or plan of action, some people push back “just because.” It’s in their DNA to contradict or downplay feedback.
So to leap over this typical hurdle, try humility. Acknowledge that you may not “know all the implications” of the proposed solution—or that you may not have the “most updated information” that affects the situation.
This acknowledgement allows the other person to stay “one up” if they decide that your opinion or information is invalid for whatever reason you state. They’re then free to “choose” whether they go along or push back on what you’ve said.
Remind Them That You’ve Shared Only One Perspective
Many situations involve only judgment—not information, facts, data, or a proven track record. Remind the other person—and yourself as well—that you’ve given your opinion, and only your opinion. Let them know that others might give a totally different perspective—and be right.
Even when the other person is open to your ideas and judgment, let them know that you’ve offered your opinion with no expectation that they’ll act on it.
Share a Vulnerability
In situations where you’re dealing with a prideful person who hesitates to admit he/she might be wrong, offer them an opportunity to save face. That is, be willing to let them know that you yourself often seek advice or have received help in solving a problem.
That allows them to accept your feedback and still keep the relationship “equal” rather than “one down.”
Avoid “Hot Words”
Your phrasing is paramount in getting your point across. Sift any comments such as these from your advice or feedback: “I’d think you’d be way off base to …..” Or: “It sounds like a half-baked solution if you’re asking me.” Or: “What you’re proposing is never going to work. So what I suggest is . . . ”
The takeaway here: People want opinions, information, and feedback—but they prefer to take it with a spoonful of sugar.