Feedback is an essential part of our working lives, but it can also provoke feelings of discomfort—both for the giver and receiver. Some may feel out of place or even rude being critical of someone’s work or performance. Similarly, those on the receiving end can become defensive in the face of feedback. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Done right, feedback is constructive and helps people get on the same page, achieve open communication, and ultimately enhance the quality of work. Below are our top tips on how to give feedback and how to receive it.
Tips for Giving Feedback
1. Don’t shy away from positive feedback
As a feedback giver, you must learn how to give feedback that is also positive. You can easily dispel the negative associations feedback has by providing positive reinforcement along with constructive criticism. In other words, feedback shouldn’t only be given when something has gone wrong or needs improvement. It’s equally important to let people know when they’ve done a good job or when an idea they’ve had has paid off. This type of varied, regular feedback will help establish good communication between you and the receiver and can help them build confidence.
2. Be specific in your feedback
One of the most important tips when learning how to give feedback is to give feedback that is specific. Vague feedback can be construed in different ways and can often come off as an affront to the recipient’s character or abilities. Specific feedback, on the other hand, pinpoints exactly where they can make improvements and often naturally leads to solutions. It also doesn’t focus on personality or other more sensitive points, it helps you to focus on performance, improvements, or behaviors. For instance: telling someone their style of writing doesn’t align with your brand is far less constructive than specifically pointing out where the disconnect is (i.e. “we don’t use first-person in our written content”). The latter provides actionable, specific guidance that won’t be interpreted negatively.
3. Provide feedback in a timely manner
On top of being specific with the content of the feedback, you should know how to give feedback that is also timely. Sitting on criticism for too long will often make the issue seem a lot bigger than, let’s say, a quick fix. By addressing any behaviour or performance that is sub-par immediately, you not only encourage more rapid improvements—effectively nipping problems in the bud—you also provide clear solutions for the recipient. By the same token, you should also provide positive feedback frequently so they know their effort is not going unnoticed.
Tips for Receiving Feedback
1. Be open to constructive criticism
It may seem obvious, but the first tip for receiving feedback is to be open to constructive criticism. If your automatic impulse is to become defensive and justify yourself or your work in the face of any critical feedback, you are effectively closing the door on any fluid communication between you and your employer or client. As a freelancer especially, showing you are open to receiving constructive criticism—you can even ask for it!—demonstrates that you are committed to the client and to hearing and meeting their needs.
2. Ask for clarification
That being said, being open to getting feedback doesn’t mean you should passively receive it. The best feedback is clear, concise, and actionable. But this won’t always be the case. If feedback is ever vague or unclear, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification and follow up with questions. For example, ask for specific examples that illustrate where improvements can be made. On top of clarifying things for yourself, this engagement with the feedback giver will show that you are dedicated to addressing any issues and are striving to improve your work.
3. Follow up on feedback
Another reliable way to show you are listening and taking feedback into account is to follow up once you’ve implemented changes. In cases where feedback is highly specific and more technical, simply making the changes can be sufficient. In many cases, however, it is valuable to check in with the feedback giver to make sure you have made improvements and are meeting (if not exceeding) expectations. There are two big benefits to following up: first, you will know how any changes to your work or performance are being received, and second, it will demonstrate that you are willing to receive feedback and adapt accordingly.
Feedback is key to building professional relationships
When it comes down to it, knowing how to give feedback, and how to receive it, is really about communication. And good communication—whether it’s between employees and employers or freelancers and clients—is the foundation of healthy, respectful relationships. For more helpful freelancing tips, check out some of our other blog posts, like How to Become a Fast Learner and Tips for Better Time Management.