How to Give Feedback That Makes People Happy


Giving feedback can be a tricky thing. On one hand, you want to help the person who asks for feedback. But sometimes, there are so many things that can be improved. Should you tell them all or hold back not to upset the other person? You do not want to come over as a smarty-pants, know-it-all, and wisenheimer.

Due to my work as an Online Communication Coach, I need to give a lot of reactions to people’s ideas and work. I find that difficult, sometimes. People come to my trainings to learn, and I want them to get the most out of it. But I learned there is a fine line between helping and demotivating someone.

An incident, this week, showed me how frustrating it can be to get overwhelmed by well-meant criticism: My boyfriend and I worked hard the last few weeks to get this new website up and running. This week, we finally could share the results with everyone. The website got great feedback. However, even though we put time and energy into checking everything, there were still some things that needed attention. Getting a list of well-meant suggestions from someone close via WhatsApp felt very frustrating at one point.

I knew the person had put a lot of time into going through the site, and I really appreciated the effort.. Despite all that, I felt hurt that there was so much attention going to the flaws.

I shared these feelings, something I found very difficult and scary. This kind of thing can break or make a relationship, right? It took me about an hour of running and thinking and writing to draft my message, another 30 minutes to revise and 5 minutes to press the send button. Finger tapping, I was waiting for a reaction. Minutes passed by. I was convinced I had f***ed it up. Finally, I got a reaction. I held my breath while reading it …

All was well. That someone was very understanding, got my point, and shared his own. What a relief.

How to give better feedback

But how can we give better feedback? How can you help and lift someone, at the same time? Here are two things that work well for me.

1. Give TIP’s, but also TOP’s

Instead of only sharing your suggestions for improvement, share an equal amount of compliments. By making a list of TOP’s & TIP’s (start with the TOP’S), the receiver of your feedback gets a structured list he can really use. He or she will feel flattered by the compliments, but also get valuable feedback to improve. A friend gave me once feedback this way. It felt uplifting and helpful at the same time. Since then, I try to apply it as often as possible.

2. Be specific when you give compliments

Last week, I followed Ellen’s Compliments Challenge. The most important thing I learned was that compliments should be specific. So instead of saying, for example, a website looks good, you can go into much more detail. What is it that makes it look good? Is it the images, the colors, or the layout? By being more specific, it will be much easier to find enough TOP’s to “weight out” the TIP’s.

We are so focused on improvement that we, sometimes, forget to appreciate the things that are already perfect.

What are your experiences with giving and receiving feedback? Do you find it difficult or easy? Let me know in the comment box below. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

P.S. Ellen and I set up Ellen’s (Dutch) Compliments Challenge in English again. So if you would like to get better at giving and receiving compliments, join us for ‘7 Days of Compliments’ by signing up here! It’s FREE and will start Monday 20th June 2016.

Image by Gratisography

Always on a quest to try new things. Nicole gets excited about everything that is organic, healthy, fairtrade, waste- and cruelty-free. She strongly believes that we are happier and healthier if we live more naturally. This is why she aims to give you better insights on how to live a happy, healthy and responsible life.