Receiving feedback is uncomfortable 99% of the time.

Even if its great feedback, that first 10 seconds after someone says ‘Can I give you some feedback?’ can be excruciating. Even more so when they are uttered by someone you respect.

So how do we make giving feedback as easy a process as possible? We use structure and emotional intelligence. What often appears to come out unedited can be a carefully constructed sentence. Usually  intended to garner a particular reaction or action by the individual it is about.

Take the commonly used example of a wife asking her husband “Does this dress make me look fat?” Regardless of the reality of the situation you can be pretty sure that she wants you to say no. And in many work scenarios we can tell who wants the unedited, truthful version in order to develop themselves from those who just wants to be told they were great.

This ability to read others’ emotions, or Emotional Intelligence, helps you adapt your behaviour to your audience. Your main aim in giving feedback is for the individual to take on board what you have said. Then either change their behaviour or continue how they were. Ideally to ensure this happens any model you use would allow them to put your feedback into context.

The most effective ways to give feedback?


Even if the feedback is positive, it is always important to take the individual away from the situation and give the feedback. This allows them to take it on board fully without distractions.


Feedback looses impact the longer after the event you give it. Choosing the appropriate moment as soon as possible after the behaviour has been witnessed allows the individual to tap into the emotions and thoughts that had at that time, and use that moving forward.

One issue at a time

Deal with the witnessed behaviour only at that time. Don’t refer back to other issues/events as this takes away the impact of the initial piece of feedback whilst the individual is recalling the previous event.

First Hand

Only give direct feedback on behaviour you have witnessed. You may wish to have a discussion about behaviour you have been told about 2nd hand, however you aren’t able to give full feedback if you weren’t actually there. Coaching them to get to giving the feedback to themselves, by getting them to talk through what happened and the impact of it, is a powerful move.

There are many different models that are used to frame feedback, however a commonly used model, The Shit Sandwich, can actually have more negative impact that constructive.

This method involves giving a piece of constructive feedback sandwiched between two other good pieces of feedback. This will often reduce the impact of the good feedback given.

It can come across as sneaky where you have tried to hide the fact that you are giving bad negative feedback in between two good pieces. Potentially making the positive feedback seem insincere. The individual only remembers the negative and it is often a wasted opportunity for personal development and growth.

Because no one ever orders a shit sandwich.

What experience do you have of feedback – giving and receiving? Share your story in the comments.

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