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Feedback is a powerful tool for improving performance and building relationships. When given effectively, it can help shape the future and build the self-confidence of others. But when given poorly, it can create a feeling of defensiveness and distance and even perpetuate the very behavior you want to change. The key is to learn how to give feedback effectively.

Concentrate on The Behavior, Not the Person

The first thing that goes wrong when giving feedback to others is a tendency to concentrate on the person you’re talking to. If someone does a good job, you may tell them they are a good person or did a good job. It sounds nice, but it doesn’t help them improve. Concentrate on your observed behavior and how it can be changed or improved.

Balance the Content of The Feedback

The next factor that makes feedback ineffective is not balancing the content of the input. For example, if you want to give someone corrective feedback, balance it with positive feedback. If you only tell someone how they can improve but don’t specifically tell them what they are doing well, you take away their self-confidence. It would help if you balanced your compliments with the truth about where the person could improve their performance to be effective.

Be Specific

The third factor that makes feedback ineffective is being too vague or general. Comments such as “good job,” “you should be proud of yourself,” or even “you need to improve” are not very helpful. Instead of making people feel better, they generate confusion and make the person feel insecure because they have no idea how to change to meet your expectations. If you want to give effective feedback, stick with specific examples.

Be Realistic

The final factor that makes feedback ineffective is probably the most common. If you tell someone they can do something better than what you saw, that’s not enough. They need to know how to do it. If you ask them to “do it like this” or “cut the budget by 20%” or “make a small change in your report,” they won’t get the idea of how to improve because those are broad generalizations.

Feedback is a powerful tool for improving performance and building relationships. When given effectively, it can help shape the future and build the self-confidence of others. But when given poorly, it can create a feeling of defensiveness and distance and even perpetuate the very behavior you want to change. The key is to learn how to give feedback effectively.