When I’m doing workshops about feedback, questions often come up about giving and getting feedback with loved ones. Sometimes people are very open about it – Q: “Should I give my husband positive feedback?” A: “It depends.” Sometimes people hang back after the session to ask their questions when the room’s almost empty.
Full disclosure: I’m not trained in relationship counselling or marriage guidance.
Yes, by all means give feedback to your nearest and dearest, close friends and relatives. And of course you can and probably should elicit feedback from them that will help build your self-awareness and personal growth.
But probably not just yet.
Why? Because unless and until you are a truly proficient giver and receiver of feedback that is considered, clear and actionable, if you give feedback to a loved one and it lands badly you risk damaging a significant relationship.
- They may treat positive feedback – praise – with mistrust, wondering if you are about to ask for something, or are feeling guilty for some reason.
- They may respond to corrective feedback with hurt feelings and strong emotions.
- They may take your remarks as an opening gambit and retaliate with their own views about you – in terms that may not enhance your relationship.
I wouldn’t advise practising your feedback skills on loved ones, as the risks if the conversation doesn’t develop as you would like are far greater than if you were to have a beginner-level, wobbly conversation with a work colleague. Yes, most of us put a lot of emotions into our work – but we have far more invested in intimate relationships.
Use these questions to check your readiness to take your feedback skills beyond your work environment and into your personal life:
- Is your feedback to your co-workers considered, clear and actionable enough to pass my ‘impartial observer’ test, i.e. such that an impartial person could corroborate or refute the accuracy of your feedback?
- Are you giving your colleagues feedback on a daily basis, to the point where it’s now a habit?
- Have you built and expanded your verb vocabulary, so that you can swiftly identify the exact behaviour that someone could do more or less of – or are you still making the beginners’ mistake of using adjectives, thus risking labelling others’ behaviour and being unhelpful to the recipient?
- Is the feedback you give others weighted (much) more in favour of positive feedback than corrective?
- Are you seeking feedback from your colleagues and helping them to do this well by framing what you want them to look for and listen to?
- Are you thanking others for their feedback, taking careful note of it and acting accordingly?
If you take each question and scale yourself 1 – 10 where 1 is ‘still getting started’ and 10 is ‘Jedi master, actually’ you’ll have an idea of your readiness – and what you may still need to work on.