How to give and receive constructive feedback?


One of the greatest challenges for both teachers and students is giving and receiving feedback. Why is it important to learn what is a constructive feedback? Is it necessary to share this kind of information at all? If so, how to do it in a compassionate, honest and constructive way? I would like to invite you to start treating feedback as a nutrient for your mind and creativity. After all, it can be the main factor boosting our creative self-development.

Text and illustration by Joanna Wróblewska

Everyone likes to be appreciated and rewarded with positive feedback. On the contrary, only a few people enjoy being criticized. This is why giving and receiving feedback is so hard. It is important to understand that a constructive feedback is not about saying “you did a great job” or “you messed up completely”. Truly constructive feedback is all about a clear and supportive communication that leads to improvement and self-development. It should feed the brain and become a motivation for a change. The question is: Are you ready for that change?

Feedback is the breakfast of champions.
— Kenneth Blanchard

Without constructive feedback it is tough to develop new exciting skills. In other words, by not listening to feedback we always lose something meaningful: a chance to learn from others. What often limits us is the fear of being judged and not good enough. The frustrations and fears of a feedback giver and its recipient are, of course, equally important. Projecting them on another person creates a situation where feedback changes into harmful criticism. Good feedback is all about showing respect and support. It is an honest and clear “adult to adult” exchange about specific behaviors, actions or subjects. In this case, both feedback giver and recipient have positive intentions, want to be effective and do what is right.

Giving feedback
It is essential to remember that we always evaluate concrete behaviors, actions, or projects. The feedback recipient should never feel judged. Instead, he/she should feel supported, guided and motivated to develop further. Focusing on facts and relying on perception will surely help avoiding general judgements and unnecessary criticism. Above all, good feedback should always support concepts, not discourage them. Providing relevant examples will help the recipient understanding evaluation and recognizing the areas of improvement.

It does not matter, if you are a teacher or a student. We all are responsible for giving good, constructive feedback to others. Please, follow tips below to evaluate your collaborators in an honest, clear, and respectful way:

  • Start from the positive aspects of the project that you are evaluating.
  • Create an “adult to adult” situation, where both parties have positive intentions.
  • Always provide feedback in order to help, not hurt or embarrass.
  • Ask for permission to comment on different things or to ask additional questions.
  • Use phrases like “I’ve noticed…”, “What if you would…”, “Maybe you could…”, “Have you already considered…”, “How about trying…” instead of ‘You shouldn’t…”, “It’s a bad idea to…”, I don’t think…”, “You have to…”, “No way that…”
  • Be specific and provide short and clear directions and suggestions.
  • Pick the right place which feels safe for you and your companion(s).
  • Ask your companion for his/her thoughts related to your feedback.
  • Smile and talk about you feelings honestly. It always helps to deal with emotions!
  • Define the target areas of improvement. If necessary, help to plan some steps to realize new go.

Last but not least, try to remind yourself how it is to be evaluated. Being compassionate truly helps to connect with other people and gives them real support, which stems from your good, positive intentions and feelings. Giving feedback might become a great, eye-opening experience not only for the recipient, but also for the giver!

Receiving feedback
Listening to feedback and accepting it is one of the biggest life challenges. There are only a few people who welcome feedback with smile on their faces and those we should truly admire. Sometimes being evaluated is so upsetting that we do not even listen to the given information. In the worst case, emotions take the control over reactions. This is why it is essential to remember that almost everybody is afraid of feedback – even your boss, coordinator or teacher. Secondly, practicing stress management should help you to avoid uncontrolled reactions and boost your self-confidence. Also, never discuss the feedback when angry or upset. Wait till the emotions are under control. I would like to invite you to review more tips placed below and come back to them before being evaluated:

  • Stay open-minded and become aware of what are you common reactions to feedback.
  • At all times remember that feedback is given to help in self-development processes.
  • Try to control your defensiveness.
  • Inform people immediately when they hurt your feelings.
  • Listen well to understand better.
  • Ask questions to clarify your understanding of feedback.
  • Ask for concrete examples and stories that would illustrate the feedback in a clear way.
  • Check on the given feedback. Ask also other people for opinions.
  • Remember that only you can decide on what to do with the received feedback!
  • Be thankful and appreciate given feedback.

You can easily ignore feedback and blame the world (meaning your boss, supervisor, or teacher) for what went wrong, but will it be truly helpful? Constructive feedback is often the only way we learn about our weaknesses! So before you get furious and start to curse, calm down and make a mature decision of accepting good, respectful and constructive feedback from your tutors and companions.

Learn more:
Giving Feedback for Strong Performance
How to Give Constructive Feedback?
Get Better at Receiving Feedback


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