Evaluating personal performance is a particularly sensitive area of communication: accepting feedback, as well as evaluating others effectively, is something that has to be learned.
Constructive criticism rather than reproaches
Professional feedback can be a fresh source of motivation and a positive personal experience. Criticism is constructive when it describes rather than judges. Feedback should be provided as quickly after the event as possible. This ensures that the event is fresh in the recipient's mind, and they are better able to realistically appraise their own performance. It is important that the feedback-giver provides the recipient with clear examples instead of formulating general reproaches. Reproaches are more likely to stir up fears and a wish for revenge, rather than providing fresh motivation to correct errors. Here, the guideline for offering feedback correctly is to formulate wishes, and not to make demands under pressure.
Readjust the impression you make
Feedback provides an important opportunity to find out more about the impression you leave on others. Therefore, the feedback discussion should be undertaken calmly and seen as an opportunity rather than personal criticism. The person receiving the feedback finds himself relegated to a passive role during the discussion, and is expected to listen carefully. There is no sense in defending one's own behavior, or clinging to details. Professional feedback does not involve personal attacks, and this can be clearly communicated to the person giving the feedback. During the discussion, the listener will inwardly decide if the feedback is justified, and what they can accept.
Feedback rules in summary
- Feedback should be as detailed and specific as possible, and include suggestions for improvement.
- Provide information, but do not try to change or analyze the other person.
- Feedback should also highlight positive emotions and perceptions.
- Tact is required: the feedback should be reversible, i.e., formulated so that the person giving the feedback would also be prepared to accept it should they be on the receiving end.
- Do not use generalizations such as “You must always...”. Instead, feedback must relate to a defined, specific behavior.
- Feedback should be given as soon as possible after the event.
- Concluding, clarifying questions are important in order to understand the recipient's perspective, for example, “What do you think about that?”