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If You Can’t Say Something Nice…How to Give Effective Feedback that Encourages a Positive Outcome

Growing up, my grandma was one of the nicest people I have ever known. She was kind to everyone she met, and had the best of intentions in every interaction she had.

I learned a lot from her. I learned how to work hard and how to be resourceful. She taught me how to bake cookies, and how to fish.

One of the things that I remember her saying a lot, was “if you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all”.

Wise words.

Wise for a kid.

Wise for an adult.

Wise in relationships.

Wise in business.

And especially wise when giving feedback. If not done properly, it can damage relationships, and cause resentment in both parties.

Recently, I was on the receiving end of “feedback” that quickly turned into what felt like a personal attack. It didn’t feel good and it wasn’t constructive. We’ve all been on the receiving end of this at some time in our lives.

And, I would venture to say, most of us have also given “feedback” that wasn’t received well and that caused damage (at least temporarily) in a relationship either business or personal.

Effective feedback encourages growth and positivity. And, it preserves (and grows) relationships. Using effective communication techniques can turn your feedback into positive outcomes.

How to Give Effective Feedback that Encourages a Positive Outcome and Successful Relationships.

Check-in on your intentions.

What’s the purpose of the feedback? In general, feedback that is given to relieve our feelings is rarely constructive or effective. This type of feedback doesn’t take the other person’s feelings into account and so it tends to be destructive, critical and doesn’t offer any useful solutions to others.

Get in Rapport.

When I say rapport, I’m talking about the subconscious language of rapport. Last week, I wrote an article about Non-Verbal Communication in regards to networking, the same techniques apply when giving feedback.

Ask for permission.

This is helpful in almost any situation. Unsolicited “feedback” is not usually received well. When the right intention is in place, this part happens naturally. Simply asking, “are you open to some feedback?” Or, “I’d like to tell you how I feel about something you’ve been doing, would you like to hear what I have to say?”

Sandwich feedback.

Our subconscious mind tends to resist negative feedback. It wants to retaliate, it gets defensive and starts going into effect or excuse mode (more on this later). The best way to give feedback is to sandwich it with:

  1. What was done right

  2. What needs to be improved

  3. An overall positive statement

Feedback should be descriptive, not evaluative.

Effective feedback includes a description of feelings that someone else’s behavior has aroused in us. It is important to present these feelings as perceptions, reactions, or opinions, not as facts. Otherwise, it can quickly turn judgmental and evaluate the quality or worth of the person.

Regardless of differing opinions, feedback should be given in a way that shows acceptance of the person as a whole. It should be coming from a place of good intentions and respect.

And, I would love your feedback on this article. :)

To your TOTAL success,


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