Most people share constructive feedback to make an impact. But that impact is about as strong as a foam Frisbee when the feedback is tossed out haphazardly and bounces off a defensive barrier. The right attitude and approach can maximize impact; when the deliverer is sensitive and sure, and when the receiver is open and approachable, that Frisbee will gently sail into a pair of ready hands.
…if it were so easy!
Unfortunately, not everyone brings their A game to Feedback Frisbee. Misfires slip under desks, wedge between filing cabinets, and even skim over people’s heads. And we often forget, feedback can be as slippery to give as it is to receive. Whichever side of the court you’re on, the first rule of Feedback Frisbee is to handle the situation with grace and sincerity, backed by an honest intent to foster growth.
If you’re on the giving side, good news—you’re about to positively shape outcomes and help someone grow. Feedback is most effective when it is solicited (you wouldn’t throw a Frisbee at someone who wasn’t looking, right?), but when it isn’t, your delivery will feel less threatening if you ask permission to engage: “May I offer you some advice?”
When offering constructive feedback:
- Deliver feedback as timely as possible.
- Address a behavior or situation the receiver can actually change, and keep the focus there, not on the receiver as a person.
- Don’t ask “why,” as this speaks to personal motivation and invites defensiveness.
- Share information and observations, and ask questions that let the receiver reason improvements for next time.
- Affirm your role in the receiver’s support system: “How can I better support you in the future?”
If you’re on the receiving side, you’re lucky—you’re about to learn about your strengths and weaknesses, and how someone else perceives you. This knowledge can help you shape the image you show to the world. Make it easy for people to share feedback by letting them know you’re ready to receive it. When people think you appreciate their feedback and will genuinely consider it, they will be more likely to offer it.
When receiving feedback:
- Demonstrate open and approachable verbal and nonverbal communication.
- Actively listen to what the deliverer is saying.
- Ease defensiveness with stress-relief techniques, such as controlled breathing or muscle relaxation.
- Ask clarifying questions and summarize the points you’ve heard. Ask for specific situations that illustrate the deliverer’s points.
- If you strongly disagree with the feedback or feel hurt or upset by it, put the discussion on hold and revisit it when your emotions settle.
Even if you brought your A game, remember that feedback relies on a subjective interpretation that may be different for each person. This will influence both the types of feedback delivered, and the receiver’s reaction to that feedback. So don’t grab your disc and go home if the other person doesn’t respond as you’d hoped! No two games of Feedback Frisbee are alike, but a positive attitude and approach will always maximize your chances of a game well played.