Feedback helps to identify and resolve differences between what is understood and what was aimed for.
It is easy to mistake it for criticism (which is ambiguous in nature as that can be understood to express disapproval based on perceived mistakes, or to be a judgment of both qualities and faults).
Anyway, feedback is used primarily as a basis for improvement, and has a few goals:
- Must be given with the appropriate recipient in mind (so don’t show off),
- Must be given as soon as possible (so don’t wait until it’s too late),
- Must allow for response and interaction (so prepare to look someone in the eye),
- Must be specific with concrete references (so do your own research as well),
- Must occur within an understanding of its usefulness and its intentions (so make sure both you and the recipient know).
The following structure may help you assess the quality of feedback you are giving.
Understanding the following may also help you reducing your own resistance, in case someone gives you harsh feedback.
- Make sure your comments are descriptive and not judgmental.
Good: “Some examples would help me understand what you are explaining.”
Not so good: “Poor work.”
- Bring balance in the positive and negative feedback. Too much of either will not be helpful.
Good: “Your introduction is complete, but a stronger example would make it more relate-able.”
Not so good: “You need to provide a better example. As it is now, your introduction is weak.”
- Connect positive feedback to the person (‘you’).
Good: “You explain the subject well and use well-researched references.”
Not so good: “Awesome article!”
- Give negative feedback in the first person (‘I’). Next, shift to third person (‘you’) or present a question.
Good: “I thought I understood the structure from the index, but you lost me in chapter 2.”
Good: “I did not understand the relevance of the example. Could you clarify this?”
Not so good: “You lost me.”
- Include accurate and specific references instead of conclusion.
Good: “Adding research data would make the argument stronger.”
Not so good: “The examples seem not very relevant.”
- Present your feedback as relevant questions that trigger further development.
Good: “Have you considered …?”
Not so good: “Next time, use …”
If you do have feedback, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org ;-)