How To Give Useful Feedback in 6 Easy Elements

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Knowing how to give useful feedback is important since 65% of employees desire more feedback and some of those who don’t get feedback disconnect with their work. Feedback is not only important in the workplace but also between customers and businesses. Only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers complain about bad experiences, so those who do need to make sure that they are giving useful and clear feedback.

Feedback is when someone notices or experiences something created or done by someone else and the first person gives the second person comments and information about their experience or about the results of the second person’s work (or possibly lack thereof). There are six parts to how to give useful feedback:

  • Clarity
  • Tone Designed for the Intended Audience
  • Strong Descriptions of Facts
  • Constructive Criticism
  • Clear Consequences/Results
  • Emphasize Main Points

How to Give Useful Feedback

Clarity

How to give useful feedback starts with clarity. Clarity is being clear and coherent so communication is easier and quicker. Improving clarity in communication is done through: 

  • Using plain language, visual aids, and examples. 
  • Keeping the audience interested. 
  • Utilizing minimalism and brevity.

Being clear is critical for conveying specific facts and results of or about a process, product, or action. Make sure not to play the ‘pronoun game’ where readers are confused on which noun or proper noun a pronoun takes the place of. Also, beware of dangling modifiers; make sure all modifiers are attached to the word they modify. Otherwise, you get sentences like: Having run to the back to check if the product was in stock, I had to leave without buying anything since the worker came back empty handed.

Tone Designed for the Intended Audience

The next part of how to give useful feedback is the tone of how it was written. A writer’s tone can be hard for readers to discern unless the writer is clear and does not expect the reader to read their mind about the writer’s intent and meaning. Tone is usually conveyed through the words the writer chose, but the organization of phrases, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs also contribute to a writing’s tone. Even how you start a sentence changes the tone of your writing.

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Through it all, maintain respect and professionalism in your tone, even if you are a customer sending feedback to a company. The person who gets and evaluates your feedback and how to use it will take your feedback more seriously if the tone is also serious. Be direct but respectful of the other person’s feelings. This is one time it is appropriate to use passive voice to avoid assigning blame on one person unless you feel it is necessary to call someone out: e.g. “XXX called me an (awful racist slur) which really disturbed me…”

Strong Descriptions of Facts

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The third part of how to give useful feedback is going over facts accurately. The first part of writing is the words the writer uses. Which words are used and where can change the meaning of a sentence or even make it no longer true. Wise writers pick their words carefully and use helpful adverbs and adjectives to add important details to support the points and clarify their writing.

State directly and accurately as you can what happened as far as you know. If there are parts you don’t know or may be biased, make sure to state them as such with words like “I think” or “it seems”. Use strong verbs and helpful adverbs and adjectives to be as descriptive as possible about important details. If relevant, list who was involved and how much as well as how much time passed and where it happened. Use your common sense over how precise this needs to be in regards to what the feedback is about and what its purpose is.

Constructive Criticism

The fourth part of how to give useful feedback is giving constructive criticism. Criticism is critical for finding shortcomings and how to better do or make something, but most people don’t want to hear it or listen to it. This is partially because a good portion of people tend to despise change and partially because they don’t want to admit they (or what they made or did) have their faults. Criticism should never be made to hurt someone’s feelings; it should be given to help them improve.

Constructive criticism is an evaluation done to help build someone up stronger and better in the long run. This is done by attacking the action or choice and not the person who did or made it. Make sure to state what the person did right at some point (opinions differ on where the placement – before, after, or both – of the positive points should be in regards to the criticism). As a part of this, explain why the action or choice was wrong by going over the consequences of it.

Clear Consequences and Results

The fifth part of how to give useful feedback is stating clearly the consequences and results of the action or choice. Start with stating the good results of the action or choice; then, start going over the negative consequences of doing that action or making the specific choice the other person did. Again, use your common sense and critical thinking to decide how precise and downstream this needs to go in regards to what the feedback is about and what its purpose is.

Try to list the results and consequences in regards to:

  • The person that did the action or made the choice.
  • The person giving the feedback (you)
  • The company/brand the person represents/works for.
  • Any future customers/coworkers that may be in this situation in future.

Emphasize Main Points

The last part of how to give useful feedback is to emphasize the main critical points and ideas that the receiver of the feedback needs to understand. Remember the main purpose and end goal of what you want to happen with the feedback. The person needs to fix ‘X’ so that “y” happens, or they need to make sure they stop doing ‘A’ so that ‘B’ (efficiency, customer service, laziness, bad reviews, etc.) is increased/decreased.

Before sending or otherwise giving your feedback to the receiver, go over it one last time. Make sure that these elements are clearly and professionally stated:

  • Facts about what happened, 
  • Good points about what was done,
  • Item(s) that needs improvement and/or change,
  • Negative consequences that should be avoided, 
  • Helpful suggestions on how to improve in the future.

Summary

Feedback is when someone notices or experiences something created or done by someone else and the first person gives the second person comments and information about their experience or about the results of the second person’s work. There are six parts to how to give useful feedback:

  • Clarity
  • Tone Designed for the Intended Audience
  • Strong Descriptions of Facts
  • Constructive Criticism
  • Clear Consequences/Results
  • Emphasize Main Points

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