1. Be attuned: Your emotional tone and descriptive words should accurately and proportionally match the behavior your feedback is meant to address.
2. Talk about the person, not their attitude: When airing a grievance, talk about the person’s behavior, not their attitude. You don’t really know what internal attitudes or motivations lead someone to behave in a certain way, and it is dangerous to make assumptions.
3. Avoid using hyperbolic language: Terms like “you always” and “you never,” or “amazing” or “horrible” can generate a defensive response or cause someone to discredit the feedback.
4. No trolling!: People sometimes hold in feedback for too long and then unload on the recipient all at once. If you find yourself wanting to do this in performance reviews and 360’s, you’ve probably waited too long and delivering your accumulated resentment without consideration will result in defensiveness rather than positive changes.
5. Use I-Messages: Following the “When you do X, I feel Y” format helps both parties see their role in a problem and increases the likelihood of a productive outcome.
6. Define the problem and the solution: Remember that the goal of giving feedback is to support the recipient’s growth and to encourage positive change. This is hard to do when feedback is vague and does not chart a way forward.
7. Speak from your own experience: While it may seem tempting to simply tell your colleague what to do, giving advice can be unsupportive. It is more skillful to help someone find a solution for themselves. By speaking from one’s own direct experience, we model, rather than tell the person what they should do.