Performance Communication , Workplace Communication

Thanks, but no thanks: The dirty truth about feedback

Thanks, but no thanks: The dirty truth about feedback

how did feedback become a dirty word? www.amycastro.comThe other day I was sitting at lunch with a group of people, when a woman I just met asked for my business card. She glanced down at it, looked at me, and said, “Can I give you some FEEDBACK on your business card photo?”

My response? “Hell no you can’t give me feedback on my photo!”

Okay, that’s not really what happened. However, I will admit, that was my first thought. I was immediately on the defensive and when I’m feeling defensive, the first thought that comes into my mind is usually not very nice. Luckily though, that first thought didn’t actually come out of my mouth and I said, “Of course!”

As it turns out, her comment was just a simple suggestion on cropping the photo so you can see my face better (“awesome”-insert sarcasm here). So why was my initial reaction so negative? I think it’s because over the years, the word “feedback” has become a dirty word. Think about it, when someone says, “I’d like to give you some FEEDBACK,” is it likely to be good news?” Of course not. If they had good news for you, they’d just say it. However, when it’s bad news or criticism, they’re going to ask if you want FEEDBACK.

Because of this connotation, people have come up with a lot of different terms for negative information they want to share.

In fact, I talk about it in this video excerpt from a recent workshop:

The first term I remember hearing is “constructive criticism.” The problem was, most of the criticism wasn’t constructive, so it was really just criticism. Then someone decided to soften the term and call it “constructive feedback.” However, once again, it wasn’t very constructive, so it just ended up being criticism with a softer name.

Additionally, if you took the term constructive feedback literally, it could apply equally to a job well done or a job performed poorly.

Regardless of what it was called, hardly anyone looked forward to providing it and no one wanted to receive it. So, awhile back I coined the phrase “Performance Improvement Feedback.” It wasn’t an attempt to invent another politically correct term for constructive criticism. I just felt that the phrase better represented what I wanted to give others and what I wanted to receive in return.

So the next time you’re thinking about offering someone your FEEDBACK, ask yourself if the information will help the person do their job better, reduce their stress, or otherwise truly benefit him or her. Or, is it just your opinion, or a hurtful criticism which they likely don’t need to hear.


To learn more about Performance Improvement Feedback, check out these two blog posts from last February:

Stop Criticizing and Start Giving the Gift of Performance Improvement Feedback

Performance Improvement Feedback in Four Easy Steps


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