Sharing an opinion, especially a negative one, can be challenging. When your friend asks you to give them feedback or clearly needs some feedback on something you’re suddenly in a position where you have to share a lot of opinions, often negative ones. Make sure you know how to deliver criticism thoughtfully, efficiently, and respectfully. You can give good feedback by doing these seven things:
1. Do it early
Don’t wait until it’s too late to give feedback. The sooner you can tell someone that something they’re doing needs work, the more time your friend has to improve at it. Don’t wait until your friend is almost done with their thousand-page novel to tell them that it’s not worth pursuing. Don’t wait for a person to make a big mistake to tell them that they’re on a dangerous path. It can be uncomfortable to deliver criticism, but if you wait too long it could become too late.
2. Avoid shaming
Sometimes (or a lot of the time) what you’re giving feedback on, whether it be a piece of work or a behavior, sucks. In fact, if they asked you for the feedback they probably did it so that they could hear someone else confirm what they already think: that it sucks. But absolutely do not tell them that it sucks. Be honest with your criticism but also be gracious. The last thing you should do is make your friend regret asking your opinion.
3. Focus on behavior
Adverbs are your friend. Instead of telling someone they are bad at what they’re asking feedback on, tell them what they can do to be better. You’re not critiquing them, you’re critiquing something they did.
4. Stay on your side of the net
If you review a book, you’re not the writer. If you give feedback on a drawing, you’re not the artist. If you’re critiquing someone’s attitude, you aren’t that person. Remember to stand your ground when you’re giving a review but not to cross any boundaries either. Bad criticism is telling people to write like you’d write, draw what you’d draw, act exactly like you act, etc. You might think you know the right way to do something, but remember that everything is subjective. You want to bring out the best out in them, not make them more like you.
5. Be generous
Universal negativity is not good feedback. Would you value the opinion of someone who thought everything you did was terrible? No, because a critique needs balance. Even if it’s difficult, find something you appreciate amidst the dreck. It’s very helpful to end your review with a compliment or two so that you are closing on a positive note.
6. Speak to the person’s interests
Deliver your critique the way it will be best absorbed. Sounds obvious, but too many people treat the critique as if they’re giving it for themselves. Make interesting comparisons that are relevant to the reviewee. Compare the positive attributes of what you’re critiquing to something he likes, and compare the negative aspects to things that he also thinks negatively of. If your friend loves Michael Bay movies, it won’t help to say that his script suffers the same problems as the Transformers movies. If they idolize a negative influence, don’t tell them that they’re becoming more like that person. Phrase your argument with consideration for your audience.
With practice comes improvement. Even if you follow the six previous tips, you will continue to grow as a reviewer as you give more feedback. That’s how it works. Giving great feedback is a fine art that can’t just be distilled into six easy steps. As you practice more you will learn when you should say something and when you should shut your trap. Over time, it gets easier.
Featured photo credit: dsa66503 via flickr.com