Giving Constructive Feedback

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Most of us have probably started a sentence with the phrase “you make me feel.” You make me feel small. You make me feel embarrassed. You make me feel unimportant. In several cases, when we use this phrase, we are trying to give someone feedback. The problem with saying this is that it doesn’t allow us for us to take control of our own feelings and our own emotions; there’s a negative connotation to it and feels like blame to the other person. Truly, only we are in control of our own emotions, but we use this phrase to give feedback.

Giving feedback is healthy and encouraged, but it’s important that it’s framed in a constructive manner. The other person cannot control how you react to their actions, but they can control their actions. If you feel unimportant, why do you feel this way? Maybe it was because you weren’t invited to a gathering they had and you think you were purposely excluded. It’s necessary to be specific.

Here are some examples of unconstructive feedback that can be rephrased and made constructive:

  • You make me feel unimportant. → I noticed that most of our friends were invited to your gathering last week. Is there a reason why I wasn’t invited? I felt a bit left out.
  • You make me feel dumb. → Sometimes when we’re in the company of other people, you correct my grammar. It’s embarrassing to me when you do this in front of my friends and family. It feels like you’re trying to insult my intelligence.
  • You make me feel guilty. → When we’re discussing our work projects and you ask me if I’ve finished a certain proposal, I feel as though you are disappointed whenever I have not yet finished. I might be reading into it a bit much, but I wanted to clear the air.

These types of feedback allow the person you’re speaking with to reflect on their actions and things they say. It may make them more aware. In the last example, there is a good chance that your boss is simply curious to know your progress. Being upfront about the way that you interpret what they say will be better for both of you.

The bottom line: transform your  “you make me feel” phrases into “I feel” phrases. It will make your message clearer and easily understood.