“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”             ~ Ken Blanchard ~

Feedback can be a double edged sword. If done well, feedback can inspire, uplift and motivate the person receiving the information, to do better.   However, if the job is botched, bad feedback can result in lingering anger, demotivation, resentment, loss of respect and permanent damage to the relationship.  The intent of feedback should always be to help the person being addressed, to improve.  The underlying belief of giving good feedback is that the person is capable of and or wants to do better.  If you honestly feel that the receiver does not want to, or is unable to improve, you should seriously consider having a talk about changing your future relationship. Here are five things to consider before giving feedback.

Make it timely

The time to give feedback is as soon as possible after the situation or event has occurred.  As time passes, memory fades and the possibility of different ways of interpretation increases.  Giving critical feedback may be difficult, but won’t get any easier over time and knowing we want to step into this, will take up energy and occupy space in our minds that could be better used.  The sooner you jump in and get this over with, the quicker you can move on with a minimum of stress.

Prepare before the meeting

Before you schedule a time for feedback, ensure you are in the right frame of mind.  Check your feelings and intentions.  If your predominant feelings are anger and judgment, the feedback will not be received very well.  Your emotions and energy will be felt by the person right away.  If you are unsure of how your feedback will be interpreted, practice with a trusted colleague, friend or family member.

Ask the recipient for their own feedback

The most powerful and beneficial feedback will come from the person themselves. Offer them the opportunity to tell you what they think and feel before you give them your viewpoint. If their response is on board with what you were intending to sharing with them, give them credit for their insight and ask them what they think they can do to change their behavior or the situation in question.  The more buy-in you glean from the recipient, the more likely the person will be motivated to change.

Stay present and stick to the facts

Talk about what you witnessed and don’t get into why you think it happened. For example, you could say that the report you needed wasn’t done on time, but don’t get into that you think it was because they are not interested in their job. Instead, talk about the impact of not receiving the report on time, had on others. Give them a chance to explain why it wasn’t completed at the deadline.

Actively listen and check your emotions

A crucial aspect of how well your feedback will be received and turned into positive results, will be how well the person receiving the feedback feels they are heard when they respond. Pause after you have said what you needed to and allow the person the time they need to collect their thoughts and respond without interrupting.  Repeat to them, in your own words, what you heard them say. If you are feeling angry or upset by what they just told you, give yourself a few moments to collect your thoughts.  If you are still feeling a strong emotional charge, it is better to tell them you will need to think about this and set a time to get back to them.

Balance and end with a positive

If you are able to, start with something positive that you have observed. This will help balance any negative or critical feelings and lower the defensiveness in the person receiving the feedback.  End on a positive note. For example express the belief that the person is capable of improving and you have faith they will do better and use the feedback to their benefit.


  • Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert, internationally published author and speaker.  To take the EI Quiz go to theotherkindofsmart.com.  His book THE OTHER KIND OF SMART, Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence for Greater Personal Effectiveness and Success has been published in 4 languages. Harvey writes for FAST COMPANY and has a monthly column with HRPROFESSIONALS MAGAZINE. You can follow him on Twitter @theeiguy.