Beyond the content of the feedback, how you say it is just as important. The way you bring your message across has a significant effect on how it will be perceived, so be sure to choose your language appropriately.
Offer suggesting statements
There are three styles you can adopt when giving your opinion:
- In a strong statement: I think that the implementation was flawed.
- In a question: Do you think there was a flaw with the implementation?
- In a suggestion: I would suggest a few changes to the implementation next time.
Consider what you are most comfortable with, and most importantly the style you think your colleague would respond to best.
Sometimes it's tempting to say: “I think you did a good job but…” You may think this is softening the blow, but your colleague might be thinking: “what's wrong now?”. This can quickly make people become defensive.
When you want to deliver both positive and constructive comments, try to list your points separately. For example:
“First of all, I have to say that you explained the conditions to the client very thoroughly. Nicely done.
Secondly, it would be better if you try to keep the consulting session a bit more focused. I noted a few details that could be left out, because they were not relevant in this case. I was lost at times.”
Use the past tense
You want to refer to a specific behavior in the past. The use of the present tense would imply that your colleague demonstrates this type of behavior all the time, making your feedback sound too generic and you might lose your point.
Verbs are better than adjectives because they leave less room for interpretation. For example:
Avoid saying: “You were rude to a client yesterday.”
Rather say: “You raised your voice a few times and used short, snappy sentences with a client yesterday.”
Remember to use the C.O.I.N model so the person understands why that was an issue.
Be conscious of your body language
When you give feedback in person, be aware of your body language. Avoid gestures that might make recipients defensive or anxious.
- Don’t raise your voice: you are not angry, you are giving them feedback to help them improve.
- Don’t cross your arms: you don’t want to look closed off to conversation and discussion around the feedback.
- Don’t frown: you are not there to judge but to provide support. Facial expressions can send messages without you even saying anything.
To create an atmosphere of openness, keep a friendly tone and open body language.
Many people find giving constructive feedback daunting. If you remember to use the C.O.I.N formula, you can ensure you're giving actionable, constructive feedback that will help your peers, manager or direct report improve their performance.
Want to put this into practice? Download a free copy of the C.O.I.N framework poster here and pin it up to help you remember.