The Art of Feedback: Guidance and Criticism

It’s easy to assume that pointing out a mistake constitutes as feedback, and to an extent it does, but that’s similar to telling your partner it’s raining outside and not handing them an umbrella. Feedback is instructive language that positively influences behavior. It has an assumed intrinsic benefit: it provides knowledge on how to improve what we do and how we do it. It helps us grow and become better.

This value can be easily lost due to belligerent language masquerading as nurturing guidance. Tough love is a tone that is understood between parties, not a concept that’s automatically accepted just because you work together. Tough love is earned, not given.

The realm of giving and receiving feedback is built on many pillars: relationships, an understanding of personalities, timing, environment, tone and language, workplace culture, etc. When one of these pillars is unstable and disregarded in the conversation, an attempt at positive feedback is the last thing that’s remembered.

A friend of mine experienced this, and his example unfortunately describes many workplaces.

When he was hired, the boss said that the workplace culture was like a “family.” That word carries many expectations and assumptions, for good or ill, but of course when you’re being hired, you’ll stick with the good. My friend made a mistake, and the boss gave him feedback. When my friend retold the story, it didn’t sound like feedback—it sounded like criticism and contempt.

Continued at Lifehacker

photo credit: cogdog

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