Giving and Receiving Feedback

Our friends at have done an incredible job summarising Feedback Best Practices. We recommend making yourself familiar with them and applying them next time you write or receive feedback.

Why feedback matters

We are a growing team from diverse backgrounds, operating with equally diverse work habits, expectations, and communication styles. Finding common ground is essential in improving our relationships and ultimately, our work. This Feedback and Accountability system is designed to help educate and practice “non-judgemental feedback”. Or, feedback that is specific, descriptive, respectful, and appropriate.

Approaching feedback with an open mind

The thought of participating in a complex feedback process can make people feel uncomfortable. No one wants to feel hurt and no one wants to hurt others (not on this team, anyway). Most people haven’t had the chance, or care, to improve their feedback skills. A recent study found we seem to like each other; so let’s do the work and give ourselves the care, respect, and feedback we deserve.

Approaching feedback with an open mind means being present, assertive, and gracious. Leave your personal troubles at home. Close down Slack for a minute, get comfortable, do what you need to do in order to feel safe.

Let’s train ourselves to see feedback as a gift. Gifts are given with care, with the receiver in mind. Don’t give the feedback equivalent of a Starbucks gift card; put some genuine thought into this. As the receiver of a “feedback gift”, respond appropriately. Be grateful for the care behind it. Reflect on it, say thank you.

Ruthlessly compassionate feedback

What does it mean to be ruthlessly compassionate? It means we come from a place of care and support to deliver quality feedback that is specific, descriptive, and supportive.

Reflect on your intent to give feedback. U mad, bro? Pump the breaks. Remember, we are equals working on the same team aiming for the same goal. Assume the best of your peers and give them the attention and care you’d expect to be given to you. Feedback is a two-way street; you get what you give.

If your intentions are good, and clearly communicated, then get that feedback party started. If you’re stuck, The Rosenberg Method is a helpful framework for delivering feedback.

Here are some quick tips in delivering feedback:

  • State your intentions clearly

Remind the receiver you are here to help, not hurt. Imagine how horribly confusing this situation would have been unless this character didn’t state his intentions clearly.

  • Lean positive

Talk about what you would like to see—not what you don’t like, or what’s wrong. Being positive doesn’t mean watering it down, it should be assertive and goal oriented.

  • Use ‘I’ language

Talk about your experience before launching “you” statements. Communicate what you observed, how you felt, and how you can help in the future.

  • Focus on their behavior rather than their character

Separate the behavior from the person. If someone is late to a meeting, comment on the tardiness; don’t attack them of being lazy. Else, you deserve every bit of this response.

  • Lead with questions

“If we are mindful… we can enter into moments of inquiry where we have no easy answers but can help the colleague assess themselves more truthfully.” Isn’t that nice?

Receiving feedback like a pro

It takes as much practice giving feedback as it does receiving it. Listening should be active! If the language is vague, it is your job to get the clarity you need. As you listen to your colleague, take a moment to clarify, reflect, and summarize what is being said to you. Some helpful phrases:

  • What I’m hearing is…

  • What do you mean when you say…

  • Can you phrase [x] in a different way?

  • … is this what you mean?

Here are some quick tips in receiving feedback:

  • Be present

As you take in feedback, don’t distract yourself with other thoughts or by coming up with counter arguments. Don’t interrupt; in fact, ask for more.

  • Be proactive

Sometimes we forget to give each other feedback, but sometimes we forget to ask for it. Feedback takes practice. Don’t be afraid to ask.

  • Reflect

What can you do differently next time?

  • Respond appropriately

Sometimes receiving positive feedback can feel as uncomfortable as negative feedback. Don’t try to minimize or deny your accomplishments. Accept them graciously and treat yo’self.

Feedback is a dialogue, not a lecture. What if you disagree with the feedback you are being given? Reflect on your intentions, take a moment to collect your thoughts, and respond with the same thoughtfulness and attention you’d like to be given. Here is a helpful script to help you frame an effective, non-defensive, rebuttal:


Feedback takes practice. Our new F&A Process is here to help get us better understand and improve our behaviors and relationships more regularly. It takes an open mind and assertiveness to deliver top feedback that is ruthlessly compassionate. We owe it to ourselves.

Further reading

Emotional Intelligence: The art of non-judgemental feedback

Mind Tools: Active Listening

The psychology of feedback

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