Joey Pinto

Software Engineer

By - Joey

The Art of Feedback!

Giving and receiving feedback is what quite literally makes the world a better place. It takes multiple forms, oral, written, or even visual. But the underlying idea remains the same, advice on shortcomings and recognition of achievements to help in having a resultant trajectory to improvement.

Notice that I said both giving and receiving. They’re both equally intricate processes. Here are my thoughts on what the ‘Art of Feedback’ constitutes.

Giving Feedback

  • The fact that there is nothing to improve that you can think of, is perfectly valid feedback. Do not make up stuff just because you need to give feedback. Dear designers, refrain from making text boxes for ‘things to improve’ mandatory!
  • Put yourself in the receiver’s shoes and think, ‘What can I do with this piece of feedback’ If the answer is not obvious, that feedback is useless as it is not actionable.
  • Always provide an opportunity for follow-ups on feedback. Anonymous feedback is necessary sometimes but only under very pressing conditions.
  • If you feel strongly about something, mention it. Do not exclude stuff to prevent someone from feeling bad, it could hurt them worse in the long run. If you feel worried about sounding hurtful, rephrase the idea to be an observation or suggestion rather than a complaint.
  • Be careful while portraying someone else’s feedback/observations. Make sure you understand it correctly. If done well this could be really useful if the third individual does not have a chance to present it to them directly. If you are unsure, mention it and redirect them to the person directly but don’t let the feedback go missing.
  • Be painstakingly detailed, especially if you are providing feedback indirectly.
  • Explain why a piece of feedback you are providing is important to you. Something that may be important to you may appear trivial to someone else.
  • Translating feedback to scores is extremely tricky. To make math work we’re trying to objectivize something that’s inherently subjective. The best thing one can do is imagine what each of the options would look like. If you can’t imagine what ‘excellent’ looks like, you have no right to pick ‘good’.
  • If you’re doubtful of your opinion not being too widely shared, state it. Ask the individual to reach out to more folks for feedback.

Receiving Feedback

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for clarifications and additional context. The best way to do this is to ask for an example/incident where the observation was made. This lets you go back and rethink ways you could have done differently
  • Taking praise is hard too. It’s easy to get in over your head. The best way to deal with praise is to believe it to be the result of some effort you made in the past as an encouragement to continue doing so. I’ve been in situations where I’ve found myself too overwhelmed with positive feedback to maintain a professional demeanor.
  • Give people a heads up before reaching out to them for feedback if possible. Try to prepare a questionnaire of things you want to get feedback about.
  • Compare older checkpoints of feedback, repeat your questions after you’ve had a chance to work on them. Try to correlate the answers with the older response.
  • Remember that not all feedback is accurate. Sometimes you receive really opinionated feedback. Phrases like..’I feel like, in my personal opinion..’ are a dead give-away. In this case, immediately ask for an anecdote to understand where that opinion is coming from.
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