7 Questions to Ask Before Giving the Gift of Feedback
For years you’ve heard us talk about feedback being a gift. When someone gives me feedback I realize that they are saying, “Sinikka, you’re awesome, and you could be even more awesome!” Sometimes when people give us feedback, though, it doesn’t feel very ‘gifty’. Instead it feels ‘judgey’ or even critical and corrective rather than uplifting and helpful. So, as we wrap up this season of gift giving, I thought I’d take a moment and use analogies from the holiday season to help make sure that when we are giving others feedback, we are oh-so-careful to give it well. This series of questions are ones you can ask yourself before giving feedback to make the whole experience as successful as possible.
1. Is this what they asked for?
If you’ve ever bought gifts for someone who had a wish list and strayed from the list a little bit, you may have experienced their look of consternation when they wondered why you couldn’t just stick to the list. Sometimes, giving unsolicited gifts can bring joy, but sometimes it can bring discomfort, especially when that gift is feedback, I encourage you to ask, “Is your feedback wanted? Have they opened the door for you to give this gift?” If not, hold your tongue.
2. Is it yours to give?
I recall experiences as I was growing up when a friend gave away something that had been in her temporary possession. I think the person who had let her have the thing in question was expecting her to keep it, not pass it on. So, when it was passed on, there was a little bit of sadness. An excellent thing to ask yourself before giving away your possessions or someone else’s, ask yourself if it is your place to share this feedback? Is it good and right that the feedback come from you? Whether it is praise or correction, is it yours to give? If not, hold your tongue.
3. Is it well packaged?
In the gift giving season we take care to wrap things carefully, put bows on them, decorate them well, and present them with care. We want to make a good impression with our gifts so we don’t usually put things in a grocery sack and hand it off to the receiver. In the same way, we need to be careful with how we present the gift of feedback. We must take care in wrapping it, considering what the message is. If we wrap it carefully with the right words, messaging, and tone, we have a much better chance of our gift being received as a gift and not as an attack. If your gift of feedback is not yet well-packaged, stop and take the time to plan.
4. Is this the right time?
There is a time for gift giving, and not every moment is the right moment. Giving someone extravagant gifts in response to small gestures can be out of place. Giving gifts in a moment surrounded by other people is not always appropriate either because it can lead to hurt feelings or undue attention. Ask yourself “Is this the right moment to give this gift of feedback? Is this the right time and place to give this gift?” If giving the gift does not produce the best possible outcomes because of the people who are around or the distractions that might be going on or any other factors at play, then now may not be the right time. Instead of giving feedback, hold your tongue.
5. Does it need instructions?
Put yourself in the shoes of the recipient. Genuinely imagine what the recipient will think or feel when they receive this feedback. Will they know what to do with it? For years, my mom and my brother have played a game where they try and send each other kitchen gadgets that the other won’t know how to use. In their case, it’s a running game to figure it out and outwit the other. But, for most of us if we received a gift that we couldn’t use, what fun would that be? If the feedback that you are about to gift to someone else requires instruction about how to apply it, then make sure that that instruction is included. Don’t leave them in the dark, and don’t make them guess.
6. Are the batteries included?
Imagine getting a toy for Christmas as an eight-year-old. Imagine getting something that lights up or moves around, but it only if it has batteries installed. And, not only are there no batteries included with the gift, but it’s Christmas day, so all of the stores are closed. Imagine how frustrated you would feel. Now, imagine receiving feedback that you simply cannot do anything with. Stop and think about the feedback you’re giving someone. For example, are you giving them feedback about how they should have handled the situation that they’ve been through recently but can’t go back to and redo? Are you giving them feedback on a situation that is in the past and no longer changeable? Are you giving them feedback that is critical but not actionable? If the recipient of your gift can’t take the feedback and do something productive and actionable with it, then perhaps holding your tongue is a better choice. It’s better to not give a gift when the recipient can’t use it.
7. What will they think?
Very often when we select gifts for others, we’re thinking about how it will make them feel, how it will light up their eyes, or how they will respond to us as a result of this gift. We need to have those same thoughts when we are giving the gift of feedback. How will it make them feel? Will it hurt their feelings? Will it lift them up? Will it let them know we care? Will it let them know we are genuinely caring for their wellbeing? Will it cause them to doubt themselves? Before giving them the gift of feedback, stop and ask yourself, how will it make them feel? What will they think about you and the feedback? If we need to revise the message or merely hold our tongue, then that’s what we should do.
There you have it, 7 questions to ask before giving the gift of feedback. How about you? What questions do you ask? Join us on social media!