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Soft Skills: Giving Feedback

In the professional world, advice on how to give feedback is abundant, but often focuses on the wrong areas. For example, a commonly toted strategy is to sandwich negative criticism between two positive pieces of praise. Such an approach overlooks the important fact that people simply aren’t that gullible. If you placed two pieces of bread, on top of and below a piece of ham, you wouldn’t call it a bread sandwich, and in a similar vein people can isolate criticism with ease.


To effectively give feedback we must first understand the different types:

  • Constructive

  • Feedback that has the express goal of improving the recipient in some way falls under this category. This form of feedback employs actionable advice that can inform how the recipient works.

  • Performance Review

  • Feedback that benchmarks or ranks an individual’s work falls under this category. This form of feedback is less actionable and more a review of the recipient’s performance.

  • Compliment

  • Feedback that expresses gratitude towards the recipient.

Now that we understand the different kinds of feedback, here are five effective strategies to better approach criticism.

  1. Make sure your coaching feedback is actionable and substantive. Be cognizant of the advice you give. If it is too vague or not actionable, the line between coaching and appreciation or evaluation can easily be blurred. Stick to performance and behavior and avoid talking about an individual’s character.

  2. Create a clear distinction between coaching and evaluation. While there is a place for both types, mixing the two often leads to confusion on behalf of the recipient. Make it clear what your intent is when giving feedback.

  3. Form a conversation. Giving feedback should never be one-sided. Make sure to keep these interactions as an exchange of ideas and not a lecture. Ask questions to verify the recipient is on the same page as you.

  4. Provide more specific personalized praise. General praise simply does very little in terms of motivating others. When giving out praise, be as specific as possible in order to provide authentic feedback.

  5. Be dynamic and flexible. Never walk into a meeting with your opinions or beliefs set in stone. Be willing to re-frame your understanding of a situation based on new information.


Having the ability to effectively give feedback can be a difficult skill to master, but investing time into actively improving this area of your professional life will pay dividends for the rest of your career. Next week, we’ll flip the tables and dive into strategies for how to better receive feedback!

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