Alex Lickerman, M.D., author of The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self, explains how to make feedback count.
1. Know your own biases. Are you more interested in being liked than in giving honest feedback? Feedback should always serve the person receiving it.
2. Have the person rate himself. By listing their own deficiencies, people dial down their defensiveness. Also, their self-rating reveals their level of insight, which can indicate their ability to improve.
3. Use the sandwich method. Start with something positive, then note an area needing improvement, and then state another positive. People are more likely to correct a deficiency if they feel as if it’s a single blemish. If they have more than one serious issue, start with the worst and save the next-most-serious deficiency for another time.
4. Be specific. Address misbehavior with an example.
5. Allow time for change. Feedback provides a perspective the recipient lacks. Give him or her a chance to turn things around.
And if you’re the one receiving feedback? Lickerman says you shouldn’t knee-jerk to criticism: “Embrace the notion that you can learn something from everyone.”