on giving feedback

I get asked for feedback from a few people who want my opinion. I ask for and look for feedback about myself and the things I do as much as I can. I know I can connect with a lot more relevant people and get more feedback, and that's already an obvious learning for me from writing this post.

Female employee pressing a green button to give feedback on a device at the office exit door
Photo by Celpax / Unsplash

A few thoughts about giving feedback struck me, and I wanted to share some of my rules for myself.

  • It is a responsibility. Take it seriously.
  • Try to understand where the other person is coming from. What are they trying to do, why are they doing that, what is their mental model, what is their ambition etc.
  • Know a bit about the other person's background and motivation. This helps me understand their skew, their prejudices, their irrational choices. All of us are irrational. Knowing why and where allows me to offer better feedback. For example, me moving back from San Francisco might seem irrational (and it was to a large extent). But that's okay.
  • Understand my prejudices. Understand my knowledge gaps.
  • Try to not let my current mood or state of mind affect the conversation. For example, if I am being pessimistic and I am having a conversation and shooting everything down and being a grumpy goose, who is that helping?!
  • I don't need to sound smart, or come up with a solution. Or give a billion dollar idea. I am not doing this to appease my ego.
  • Don't be a dick.
  • Ask hard questions.
  • Don't generalise. Be specific. Be clear. As much as possible.
  • Don't support ideas because you are expected to support them. Even if they are your friends. Especially if they are your friends. Blind, unconditional, irrational support is different from feedback. There's a time for that.
  • Be nice. Say something constructive and positive. Even if it is slim pickings.

At the end of the day, the point is to present my perspective. With my prejudices and experience. As long as I am cognizant of my irrational choices or knowledge gaps, I can build that as part of my feedback mechanism. Plus, the person asking feedback needs to be smart about it as well - and have multiple levels of layers of feedback gathering. Then, they put it into a mixer and figure out what comes out of it.

Photo by Tyler Nix / Unsplash

While this sounds like a lot, the idea is for this to be a win-win. I might learn something from offering feedback. And hopefully the other person learns something - either it is to read a book, or explore a thought or a theme, or sometimes to reinforce their idea. I am not expected to solve their problem. But I am hopefully one part of the way in them moving in a forward direction. How big a part? Why does that matter.

All said, I think receiving feedback is the harder one. Coming soon!

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