5 Steps to Deliver Criticism-Free Feedback

5 Steps to Deliver Criticism-Free Feedback

Balancing honesty and tact as a leader is a delicate task. 

We’ve all been on the receiving end of negative feedback. 

If you’re like many, feelings of self-doubt can undermine your confidence and cause feelings of unworthiness. 

Naturally, as social beings, we don’t want to be perceived poorly. 

What’s harder than receiving feedback? Giving it. 

Why? Because it takes so much courage to confront someone and tell them they did X, Y, or Z incorrectly. 

Delivering “constructive criticism” is an art that requires empathy and clear communication. 

When offered with good intentions and in a thoughtful manner, it can help individuals learn, improve, and reach their full potential.

The goal is for the member to understand your feedback and to receive it positively.  

In this blog post, we will discuss five essential steps to deliver constructive criticism to foster growth, understanding, and positive change.

Step 1: Choose the Right Time and Place

Timing and environment are crucial when delivering constructive criticism. 

Instead of rushing to give feedback when someone makes a mistake, it’s helpful to pause and mentally prepare before offering your input.

On-the-spot corrections are acceptable but if you have time (which most times you do), you should wait. 

One strategy is to have a go-to feedback area. This can be a private setting where the member will be receptive and comfortable. The goal is to maintain confidentiality and minimize distraction. 

Then simply notify the member that you would like to discuss “insert subject” at XX:XX on Friday. 

This level of preparation allows the member to understand the situation and focus on the feedback. 

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Step 2: Focus on Specific Behaviors or Actions

Constructive feedback should be specific and solution-oriented rather than vague or personal. 

Instead of attacking someone’s character, direct your attention to particular behaviors or actions that need improvement. 

Be prepared with specific examples to back up your observations. This approach helps the person better understand the issue and provides a clear path towards positive change.

For example: Instead of saying, “You’re always so disorganized, “try focusing on a specific instance, like, “During yesterday’s meeting, I noticed that your notes were incomplete, which made it difficult to follow the discussion.”

As you can see — one presents a clear path ahead such as improving note-taking skills and the other creates tension because the member is unsure of which way to go.  

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Step 3: Use “I” Statements to Express Concern

Okay — this is one of the few times where it’s okay to use “I” statements to express your concerns. 

“I” statements are great for feedback because they empathize with personal feelings and experiences. This approach avoids making you sound accusatory or judgmental. 

For instance, say, “I noticed that sometimes you interrupt others during team discussions, and I feel it hampers effective communication,” instead of using phrases like “You always interrupt everyone!” 

By framing your feedback in this way, you foster a more open and non-confrontational conversation.

Overall — just saying the word, “you”, can place people on the defensive. 

Trust me, this is a hard habit to break but once you do you gain positive control of the interaction. 

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Step 4: Offer Suggestions and Alternative Perspectives

While highlighting areas needing improvement, don’t forget to provide potential solutions or alternatives. 

Constructive feedback is not solely about pointing out weaknesses but also about guiding growth. 

Offer suggestions and perspectives that can help the person develop better habits, skills, or approaches. 

Encourage them to think critically and brainstorm their ideas for improvement

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Step 5: Show Empathy and Offer Support

Delivering constructive criticism should be accompanied by empathy and support. 

Acknowledge the person’s efforts and strengths, and demonstrate your belief in their ability to grow. 

Make it clear that your goal is to help and support them in their journey towards improvement. 

Offer assistance and be available for further discussions or mentoring if needed. 

Building trust and rapport will make the person more receptive to feedback and more likely to embrace positive change.

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Constructive feedback, when delivered effectively, can be a catalyst for personal and professional growth. 

Summary of 5 Steps:
1. Choosing the right time and place
2. Focusing on specific behaviors
3. Using “I” statements
4. Offering suggestions and alternative paths
5. Showing empathy and support 

Remember, the ultimate goal is for the member to receive the feedback healthily and productively. 

Being able to do so will only create trust within your team. 

Happy Reading, 


by Brandon Seyl – February 29, 2024

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