Getting honest and useful feedback is a wonderful gift. Obviously positive feedback (“You’re doing a great job with this project!”) is awesome because it makes you feel good and motivated to keep up the good work. Negative feedback, (“Your site is extremely hard to navigate and I wasn’t able to complete the signup process”) can be painful to hear, but if you can swallow your pride, it’s actually an amazing opportunity to improve what you’re working on.
On the other side, being able to deliver good feedback (especially negative feedback) means you have the opportunity to influence the people and projects around you to make them better. But because many people shut down when recieving negative feedback about themselves or others, it’s important to deliver that feedback in the right way.
As a startup founder, I give and receive a ton of feedback both positive and negative, so this is something I think about a lot. Here are some suggestions I have for delivering negative feedback effectively. Follow them and watch your feedback’s influence increase.
- Show you care about the project/person
“I’m totally behind your efforts to help disabled athletes in China…”
- Show you understand and are aligned with the projects goals
“I know you are focusing on just one market at this time…”
- Show that you’ve thought through reasons why the implementation might be what it is
“I bet you saw good reasons to use three buttons instead of two…”
- Be specific about the situation/part of the thing you are giving feedback on
“When I was trying to send a picture to my girlfriend, it also shared it on Facebook and I didn’t expect that…”
- Explain exactly why you think this is a problem
“If the party playlist is only remixes of “Call Me Maybe” I think a lot of people would get annoyed and leave early…”
- Show that you are open to different solutions to this problem
“I could see us building more unit tests and/or getting more disciplined about QA before the release…”
- Recognize the limits of your knowledge/expertise
“I don’t work in your industry, but one thing that’s worked for us is…”
- Generalize or Exaggerate
“Makes me throw up every time I look at it…” (unless of course, this is actually true!)
- Give unnecessarily rude feedback
“An utter piece of shit…”
- Indicate that there is one and only one possible solution
“There’s no question that if you don’t immediately build this feature, everyone is going to leave”
- Assume the worst motives of the people involved
“These guys are like every other investment banker – they swindle others to enrich themselves”
So those are my suggestions for delivering negative feedback effectively. What other suggestions do you have?
Photo Credit: Dell Think Tank – NYC
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