I believe in the oreo cookie approach to giving feedback. The recipe is quite simple:
- Start by acknowledging something you appreciate.
- Offer your corrections.
- End by stating something you approve of.
This approach wraps what might be difficult to hear in between things that are much more pleasant to the ears.
Straight Up Criticism
Recently I got some unvarnished feedback.
I had worked for a couple of hours on writing the copy for an e-newsletter. I had really tried to get it right. If you’re a writer, you know how challenging that can be. The clearer and simpler and more compelling the writing, the harder it is to write.
I finished my draft and sent it to the person I was working with for comments. Within an hour, I got back this email:
“The third and fourth sentences don’t work. Make them more personal.”
That’s it! Nothing else.
I glanced at the email and felt my color rise. It seemed that all of my hard work had gone unrecognized. It seemed that the only things my colleague saw were the things that didn’t work.
It felt like I’d been punched in the face. And that’s the way I reacted. Rather than diving back into the e-newsletter and happily making the changes, I found that I had no will or zest to make the corrections. I just wanted to withdraw. Exactly the way I’d behave if someone really did punch me.
Now, here’s what’s amazing about this story.
- First, it’s remarkable that something so small and insignificant generated such a big reaction.
- Second, I know my friend thinks I write well. She does! But even so, the fact that she said nothing about the good stuff I had written made me feel utterly dismissed.
- And third, she actually said nothing bad or dismissive at all. She just made a suggestion and neglected to acknowledge what I had done.
I would have been fine if she had written this instead, “Hey Andrea, I really like most of this. But why don’t you tinker with the 3rd and 4th sentences a bit. If they were more personal, they’d have more impact.”
That’s all I would have needed to feel happy and thankful for her feedback. I just needed the good part of my work to be acknowledged.
Small Slights Can Have a Big Effect
This is a very small and insignificant incident and it took me only a minute or two to regain my sense of well-being. And of course, I did get myself to go back and finish up the e-newsletter, which was made better as a result of her suggestions.
But realizing that even small slights can have a big effect has me being much more careful about acknowledging the good in what I see before I make suggestions.
I find that highlighting the positive is not only good for the people I work with, but it’s also good for me. Every time I notice and comment on something good, I feel better too.
Funny how a few words can make such a powerful difference, isn’t it?
Get in the Habit of Noticing What’s Good
It’s very rare that everything is bad — that there’s nothing good to say. But it takes a bit of practice to notice the good as often as you notice the bad. The more good you notice, the better you’ll feel and the better the people around you will feel, too.
Share your suggestions for how to get in the habit of noticing what’s good.
‘Punch in the face’ photo Copyright: razyph / 123RF Stock Photo