How To Ensure You Get Feedback That Is Actually Helpful (And Not Morale-Battering)

Sometimes you’re on the receiving end of feedback that feels like an annihilation.

Ideally, feedback is a positive output of a two-way interaction. Good communication skills can ensure that the feedback you receive is healthy and progressive, and that someone isn’t getting a bit personal with their opinion.

There’s a simple trick to training others to give you the good stuff, ie. feedback that’s useful and constructive rather than leaving you with radioactive burns from morale-stripping criticism.

Using aspirational phrases to prompt constructive feedback

People generally aspire to live up to other peoples’ high expectations of them. This is as true at work as it is outside of the workplace.  By applying techniques I give my clients in conversational skills training and influence skills training, there’s a greater likelihood you’ll gain constructive feedback from an interaction if you top it with aspirational phrases.

When making requests for feedback you want to use ‘I’ as much as you can, in order to subtly set the tone and your expectations of the meeting,  avoiding ‘you’ here if possible. Take this statement, for example:

“I know you’ll give me objective and clear feedback so I’m looking forward to our meeting today.”

This may work if the other person already senses what you value about them. However, from that same statement, a team leader may infer that you actually regard them as tactless and opinionated, which is more likely if they actually are.

So that they don’t see you as being sarcastic, go for the statement below, where I’ve knocked out the ‘you’:

“I’m looking forward to this meeting.  It’s really important for me that this (note: not ‘your’) feedback is clear and objective. That’s something that I can really work with.”

This statement shows that you value their opinion and have high expectations of the feedback, which increases the likelihood of them not letting you down with the response.

If you need to remind them later to keep the feedback less personal, drop this in:

 “I do really find that feedback is more actionable if it’s clear and objective.”

This a conversational skill that Dale Carnegie talks about in his Book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’, where he discusses the notion of giving someone a ‘fine reputation to live up to’, in that you’re laying out your expectations of the meeting.

I’ve tweaked it slightly though, by depersonalising it here. In this way, the tone conveys, “You’re great.  It’s the feedback that we need to make good!”  Then watch them, like an eager puppy, trying to reach the height of your confidence in them.  These aspirational phrases will give those claws a good cutting back and help to prompt the more rounded and constructive feedback you can work with.

Your Action

  1. Note when you want to proactively seek feedback from a meeting or an appraisal.
  2. Add what you would value from That meeting.  Honesty?  Clarity?  Direction?  Whatever it may be, ensure you receive it by using these aspirational phrases to set the tone.  You can even use it in the email you send to request the chat, pre-empting those expectations before you meet.

If you need help getting more positive and constructive outcomes from workplace conversations, then you’ll reap the benefits from my communications skills training, conversational skills training and influence skills training courses. These all provide easily applicable skills and techniques realise the best outcomes from everyday work situations.


Photo by Rdne Stock Project from Pexels

This article was originally published in June 2020 and was completely updated in March 2024.



Leave a Comment.

Please note that for privacy reasons your email address is not publicly displayed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Share This: