Palatable and Contructive Feedback

When someone tells you about a new business idea or similar, it’s tempting to focus on any weak points or areas where the approach is incomplete. The likely reaction will then be defensive or unappreciative.

I came across a simple routine to avoid this (often unproductive) battle:

Thankfully, this understanding of the brain reveals a little routine that we can all use to ensure that helpful feedback lands as it’s intended. It goes like this:

1. Tell the other person: “What I like about this is . . .” Give meaningful, specific examples of what you like, and explain why you like them. Aim for as many concrete positive points as you can. Don’t rush.
2. Then say: “What would make me like it even more is . . .”

The goal in the first of these two steps is to be at least as tangible and forthcoming in your praise as you are in your criticism—not just saying “it’s great,” but what specifically is “great” about it. (Matt might’ve said, “I really liked the way you pulled in survey data to support your argument, for example in the section on page two. It tells a great story and sticks in the reader’s mind.”) These sorts of details matter; they make it far more likely that the person properly absorbs the fact that you value aspects of whatever they’ve said or done.

Now all I have to do is to remember to actually use it and see how effective it is!

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