How to ensure you receive feedback that’s actually helpful (and doesn’t become morale battering)

Someone getting a bit personal with their feedback?

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

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

Aspirational Phrases

People aspire to live up to other peoples’ high expectations of them so there’s a greater likelihood you’ll get what you want from the interaction if you top it with these aspirational phrases.

Within these statements, 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.”

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.”

Its a trick that Dale Carnegie talks about in his Book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and it involves 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, jumping up your leg trying to reach the height of your confidence in them.   These aspirational phrases will give those claws a good cutting back.


Your Action

  1. When are you next proactively approaching someone for feedback? Write it down.
  2. Are you due for an appraisal?  Note the date.
  3. Now, what would you value from those meetings?  Honesty?  Clarity?  Direction?  Whatever it may be, ensure you get it by using these aspirational phrases to set the tone.  You can even use it in the email you send to request the chat, preempting those expectations before you meet.


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