Feedback Part 3: Not-Quite-So-Awesome-Feedback


So someone you know comes to you and asks you for feedback.Which is great, except, if you're being honest, it's not all unicorns and roses.If hearing not-quite-so-awesome feedback is difficult, it's just as hard for even semi-nice people to dish it out. After all, we don't want to come across as mean, critical and judgemental, especially not to those we care about.Giving this type of feedback can be totally nerve-wracking, with parts of us waiting for the other person to either get pissed off and throw stuff/comments/bad vibes at us, or break down in tears of devastation as we stand there, feeling like really horrible people. To get over this fear, we justify our silence with the belief that 'there's just some things that even really good friends don't talk about'.But if you do talk about it, it can make such a huge difference.The way you approach the not-quite-so-awesome-feedback will make or break the moment. This is where planning comes in.


If you have some not-quite-so-awesome feedback to give someone, think about how you're going to approach it before diving straight in. There's no golden formula that's going to satisfy 100% of people receiving this feedback 100% of the time, but a good place to start is:'When you do [A], I feel [B], because I have a need for [C] and when you do [A], I don't feel that need is being met. So what would be really helpful for me, is if you could do [E].'For example,'When we arrange to meet and you show up late without warning me, I feel annoyed. I have a need for security and respect, and when you don't tell me you're going to be late, I don't feel that need is being met. So if you're not going to be able to make it on time, it would be really helpful to me if you could call me in advance to let me know.'This is the most honest way of approaching not-quite-so-awesome-feedback because:

  • There's no name-calling: 'You're late, you assclown'
  • There's no labelling: 'You're so inconsiderate'
  • There's no false obligation statements: 'You shouldn't be late'

It's all about me, my feelings and my request. I'm not putting any responsibility on the other person, I'm not asking them to shoulder any of the blame, I'm simply talking about my needs.There's also no phrases that I call 'eternity statements'. These are things like: 'You never show up on time,' or 'You're always late!' If we want people to listen to us properly, it's not a good idea to use these statements because a) they're probably not 100% accurate and b) they're going to provoke the other person's defences. However, they're also really, really tempting to use when emotions are running high. I still forget myself and let one slip out every now and again - it's just something I have to stay conscious of.

Add a Little Sugar to the Feedback Bowl

When we're giving not-quite-so-awesome feedback, it's a good idea to start the conversation by giving some positive feedback first. Remember yesterday's post on compliments? This is a great chance to practise that.By putting positive feedback first, you're saying you value the relationship. The other person is less likely to become defensive, the conversation is less likely to turn into a conflict, and it puts a positive solution-orientated spin on whatever problem or issue you're bringing up.

What Happens Next

When you give someone feedback, there's no obligation on them to change; you're simply offering them a different perspective and an opportunity to develop. That means they might change what they're doing, they might choose not to - the result is something that's out of our control.While they might not necessarily act on your feedback, giving feedback is not about the other person: it's about us and our happiness. Just like awesome feedback, being able to give less-than-awesome-feedback is about giving ourselves a voice and expressing our needs and preferences. Thinking about our relationships in terms of our needs will help us become more conscious of what we want from them in the future.Is there any not-quite-so-awesome-feedback you've been putting off? How would it feel to tell the other person about your needs? 

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