How to provide feedback and do no harm to yourself or others?


After a presentation I asked one person how it was and requested some opinion – feedback. The first thing I heard: “massacre”. It’s good it was me. Because it made me wonder and inspired me to this entry. Here is the answer to the question: how to provide feedback when we are asked for it? Do it in a way that does not hurt anybody.

I like to ask other people about their opinion because I always learn something new. This time I asked someone whom I have business relation with. There is no greater intimacy nor history of cooperation. The lack of direct dependence between us is a good sign.

However, before you ask someone for feedback:

  • think about who you are asking – whether this person has any experience or knowledge from that field,
  • know if you wish to hear relevant remarks (feedback) or just first impression and very subjective assessment (personal opinion),
  • ask this question face to face, so you have the luxury of hearing sometimes not very pleasant things, and ensure the other person that his or her words mean a lot to you,
  • we assume that you want an honest answer, but remember that for many people it is a consent to point out everything which is the worst not always in a professional manner, but put bluntly, think twice if you are ready for this kind of honesty,
  • readiness for honesty is connected to one more thing: are you ready to analyse the information you will get and draw conclusions out of it?


Why think about knowledge and manners of a person who provides feedback for you?

Because what he or she tells you will mean something to you. Some words can cut our heart and are hard to get rid of from our memory although they do not do any good. I remember how I was told to stick to poetry because prose was absolutely not for me. It was few years ago, but I still remember it. It blocks me, limits and discourages me.


It is not you under fire, but the one who provides feedback!

I often ask for feedback and realise that people can’t convey it to each other at all. They are unable to share opinions in a humanitarian way.


First of all, they understand honesty as a permission to say everything that comes to their minds, the worst things, direct pointing out of weaknesses and errors. It is just as if we granted them a license to kill and finish us off. They do it without asking anybody for permission and show how poor they are at communication.

According to my observations they are often people who are not better than us at all in certain areas, but this way they cure their complexes. They judge your presentation, but they do not have the experience of performances for more than 100 people. This is why we should be careful whom we ask for feedback because some people are not worth it.

It happens that such feedback request begins with strong and direct assessment like “massacre”. And it is a massacre when someone shares an opinion or feedback with you in this way. It is a symptom of something wrong with that person – a problem with ego, his or her self-esteem etc. The most important is the fact that there is no content or even a pinch of understanding of rules of good communication, not to mention lack of empathy.


How to provide feedback from heart and do not show our own shortcomings?

If someone asks you for opinion, avoid direct assessment – a general one, strong and expressed with an adjective at the very beginning.

Be specific. If somebody asks you for feedback for real, they do not want to hear that it was OK or bad. This person is asking for details. It will be enough if you back up your feedback on 2 or 3 elements:

  •  refer to the things you remembered based on real examples – discuss facts,
  •  start with what you liked most.


Feedback is not about picking on mistakes!

It is where I am always surprised as we all are champions of telling what is wrong. Very few of us can appreciate other people and say what moved them, made them wonder, what was good. I remember once when together with “Lecz człowieka” group we were providing feedback on presentation to each other. Our task was to focus on what’s good, valuable and interesting in that presentation. It was difficult for many people as they were unable to appreciate, but hunted for mistakes impeccably.


Why aren’t you interested in a person whom you provide feedback for?

Interestingly, so far no one whom I asked for feedback had asked me how I felt during my presentation. Nobody was interested in my self-perception. It’s a pity because it can say a lot about needs. Why was no one interested?

Maybe because we are so wrapped up about what we have to say, so elevated and ego is bursting so we forget about the most important thing:

Feedback is a gift for another person.

Do we want to present another person with negative emotions, scepticism, and talk about someone’s weakness to boost our ego?

We have an enormous problem with honesty. We do not get what it is about at all and I feel sorry about it. Honesty means noticing good and bad, not only pointing out bad. Honesty is not bad news. Honesty is not letting yourself speak without thinking.

Just as providing feedback is our gift to another person, when someone is asking us to be honest, he or she entrusts us and it does not mean that we can be painfully direct and are waived from basic respect for other person’s emotions.

Honesty is not an agreement to saying everything, but an expression of trust for you – do not destroy it by forgetting about empathy, human feelings and respect.

 If you ask for feedback, think what you need.

If someone is asking for feedback he or she may be guided by various needs such as desire to grow, checking if a given solution worked or a test what we noticed. Remember they sometimes need a little support, recognition or kind word.

Have you ever wondered about it? Have you ever thought about what such person needs? Or do you just say what you like because you can? We still have to learn a lot about empathy, respect and taming our ego, and ask ourselves the question:

How can your feedback help a given person to develop and become even better, more beautiful and more confident human being?

Feedback is not just a privilege, but also responsibility. Not only for someone’s well-being, but sometimes for decisions or self-image that can be caused or perpetuated by our feedback. Therefore, think well what you will say when asked about your opinion. Stay quiet sometimes, before you learn what honesty, empathy and relevant feedback really are.

Photo by Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon


Tags: , , ,