A Key Soft Skill: How to Give Feedback


The ability to give and receive feedback is a key soft skill that is essential for advancing your career. In the American workplace, providing informal feedback, or practicing self-disclosure, is interpreted positively by your co-workers. This important soft skill is seen as willingness to communicate and to be open with what is going on with you.

This perception, in turn, will likely lead your co-workers to make similar disclosures, thus leading to higher levels of communication. It also leads to higher levels of trust, liking, and respect.

The end result is two-fold. One, you create a more effective and positive work environment. Two, you increase your chance of being promoted because you are seen as an effective communicator.

What is Feedback?

Feedback is information you give to another person about their behavior and its effect on you. It can be given informally or formally.

Feedback is self-disclosure about your own experience. It is not a way to control another person’s behavior.

Here, we will offer three formats for giving feedback informally. In another newsletter, we will discuss how to provide feedback more formally. Pay Attention to Your Internal Experience To be skillful in giving feedback or self-disclosure, you must be able to identify and communicate your experience to another person. Your experience is what is actually occurring in the present moment. This experience could be internally in your mind or what is happening to you in your environment. Your internal experience consists of:

  • Your thoughts (judgments, interpretations, beliefs, what you are saying to yourself)

  • Your feelings (anger, fear, joy, sorrow)

  • Your wants (desires, intentions, motives.

To identify and share your experience effectively, it is important to:

  • Be aware of your own experience as it is happening in the present moment. Many of us recall only later an important thought or feeling.

  • Own your experience.You do this by saying “I” when you mean yourself, not saying “you” or “one,” for example.

  • Know the difference between “I want,” “I think,” and “I feel.”

Formats for Giving Informal Feedback

Here are three formats for giving informal feedback. These formats involve completing these sentences as they apply to your situation.

1. “When you said (or did) __________________ (something you actually noticed the person say or do), I felt______________________________ (a specific feeling or sensation in your body).”

Example: “When you said you were not able to finish the test, I felt frustrated.”

2. “When you said (or did) _________________ (something specific that you noticed), I said to myself: “__________” (a direct quote of the words you said inside your own mind, shared as a self-disclosure about YOU, not as an assessment of the other person).

Example: “When you said you felt angry, I said to myself, ‘Gee, I wonder how I would feel in that situation.’ ”

3. “I noticed (or observed or saw or heard) ________, and I assumed (or infer or imagine) _______.” Example: I noticed you are nodding your head, and I assumed you agree with what I just said.” Benefits of Three Formats for Giving Informal Feedback These formats give you practice in making the distinction between what you observe and how you experienced or internally processed that observation. Using these formats helps to remind you that your feedback is an act of communicating to the other person what you experienced – and not an evaluation of the other person’s behavior. Giving feedback can take your relationship with a co-worker to a deeper level than the usual encounters in the workplace. As mentioned earlier, giving feedback leads to higher levels of trust, liking, and respect. And when you are trusted, liked, and respected, you increase your chances of getting that leadership position you want.

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