The 3 Steps To Delivering Feedback (And Stay Friends)

Deliver feedback in the right or wrong way, whether to a direct report, a colleague or even your boss, can make all the difference to how it is taken onboard. Let’s be honest, no one likes to be told about their mistakes or performance issues. We all like to think we are great at what we do, don’t we? But when we are given feedback nicely, it doesn’t sting as much, and we are more likely to listen.

So how do we go about delivering feedback in a way that doesn’t hurt the relationship so that the other person leaves the conversation feeling good about themselves and ready to embrace the change required of them? I’ve got good news: there is a method, and I am going to take you through it step by step 😊     

Step 1 – What is going well

Always start with praise. When you are preparing for the discussion, spend some time thinking about what this person is doing well. And if they are not getting anything right, is there something else about them that you could praise? Their positive attitude, the fact that they are a team player? 

Just find something positive to start the conversation with.

This is important because you are talking to a human begin with feelings. When we make a mistake, we usually beat ourselves up pretty badly already. We do not need anyone to add to this.

But sometimes, because of our role, we have to bring up with others certain mistakes or behaviours that need to be addressed. So let’s do it with kindness and start by reminding people that they are not totally worthless and there are things that they are doing well, that these things have been noted and are appreciated.

This will smooth the way for step 2.

Step 2 – Delivering feedback

Now it is time to bring up the issue. Again, let’s try a little kindness.

For example, “You are usually doing this [insert whatever they are doing] really well but I have noticed that lately you are doing [insert the problem]. Is there a problem? Is everything alright? It’s not like you so I thought I’d check on you.”  

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Now you see we are using a skill we are all capable of; it’s called compassion. Because the reality is that we can all have an off-day, problems at home, or workload issues.

If you are inquisitive about the behaviour (rather than blaming), giving the person the benefit of the doubt, they are more likely to open up to you and tell you what is really going on, giving you a chance to help them solve the issue.

Remember that we never know what is going on in someone’s else life. 

The 3 Steps To Delivering Feedback (And Stay Friends)

Step 3 – Everything will go well

Once you know what the problem is, you can find a solution together, which might simply be that the person needs to pay more attention, ask for support, take time off… And then, reassure this person.  

Tell them that together, you are going to get things back on track and all will be well because they have all of these qualities [loop back in with step 1] that assure you that they can sort things out.

In other words, you are pre-framing success. You have set out that you believe that they can correct the mistake/behaviour and because you have faith in them, they will now also believe that they can do it.

Try these simple steps and let me know how you get

Do you have a different method for delivering feedback to people? What works well for you? I’d love to hear your stories. Let me know in the comments.

Further resources

My favourite book on dealing with people:  How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This article is part of the series Happier At Work, which you can find here.

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