The Crucial Art of Good Feedback, by Georgie Tennant

On the blog in June, I wrote about feedback being a gift to us, if only we can suspend our egos enough to receive it. Since then, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to put the skill of receiving feedback into action and it isn’t always the easiest or most comfortable of things.

Some kinds of feedback leave me feeling satisfied, happy – that I’ve carried out a job and done it well or that I have useful ideas to take my work to the next level. Other kinds feel a bit empty or knock my confidence, if I’m feeling fragile.

It got me thinking about the types of feedback we might receive, what their impact can be on us and why. Below, I have compiled what I consider to be some useful dos and don’ts for giving feedback: let me know whether you agree and if there are any you would add, from your experience as both giver and recipient.

1. Don’t over-rely on emojis

Don’t get me wrong, a well-chosen emoji has its place (who doesn’t love everything a facepalm emoji can convey in so little space?!) and sometimes, all we have time to do it give something a quick thumbs up, in our busy lives. I would rather receive the kind acknowledgement that someone has at least read / seen my offering than not receive anything at all – but let’s not over-rely on them. It doesn’t take much more time to deliver a brief, well-phrased encouragement, so try to it more, whenever you have the capacity. The impact can be huge.

2. Don’t be too vague

Sometimes it can be lovely to receive simple praise and, as with emojis, there is a time and a place for it. Writing or saying “well done,” or “great stuff,” or “congratulations,” can be a great encouragement to someone. If that’s all we ever say to someone, however, it can lose its impact and rob them of an opportunity to reflect and grow.

3. Do be specific and pick out what you liked and why

This is the antithesis to the “don’t,” above. Tell someone exactly what you liked about their work and why. Quote a specific line and explain why you loved it. Tell the recipient of your feedback exactly how it spoke to them and impacted them. You might also ask questions or debate with the writer / speaker about something they said or wrote that you disagreed with – but the person you have given feedback to will come away from these conversations, written or verbal, feeling built up, encouraged and with much to reflect on.

4. Do encourage people about how much they have grown and improved, if you have known them for a while

It’s a privilege to receive feedback of this sort. This kind of feedback comes from people you know and trust and who have walked your journey with you from the beginning. With these kinds of relationships, you will be able to speak into people’s lives in ways others can’t. Far from being critical, what this kind of feedback means in reality, to someone, is that you are noticing how their skill and craft is growing and developing. You may still have ideas for how the recipient of the feedback can grow and improve more, but you are coming from wanting the very best for them and wanting them to fulfil your potential.

5. Don’t promise feedback then not deliver it

I think this applies particularly in the realm of book reviews, though I, myself haven’t yet achieved the dizzy heights of needing them. I gather that they are hard sought-after and not always east to come by, so if you’ve promised one to someone, always deliver. If time is lacking, keep it brief – an encouraging headline, brief description and star rating could go a long way towards building someone’s confidence and boosting their sales. In fact, often potential readers will be influenced to part with their pennies more by a brief, “Loved it – buy this book!” over a long, well-crafted review. Don’t be afraid to leave such a review – if you did love it, of course.

So – please do join in the discussion, on the blog or on Facebook or Twitter. Do you agree or disagree with these dos and don’ts? What would you add?

Georgie Tennant is a secondary school English teacher in a Norfolk Comprehensive. She is married, with two sons, aged 14 and 11 who keep her exceptionally busy. She writes for the ACW ‘Christian Writer’ magazine occasionally, and is a contributor to the ACW-Published ‘New Life: Reflections for Lent,’ and ‘Merry Christmas, Everyone.' More recently, she has written 8 books in a phonics series, published by BookLife. She writes the ‘Thought for the Week’ for the local newspaper from time to time and also muses about life and loss on her blog:

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