How to Ask for Feedback
Getting feedback from the right person can help you figure out where you stand at work or school. Supervisors and professors can use the opportunity to help you notice shortcomings or underline important achievements. Feedback from coworkers and classmates can give you an impression of your performance and attitude. In any case, you need to make sure you approach a request for feedback the right way. You need to tailor your questions to get the best feedback, and you always should accept feedback graciously.
Asking the Right Way
Insist that they prioritize helpfulness.Giving honest feedback can be intimidating; many will react badly to anything they might perceive as criticism. Understand this before you approach someone for feedback. Make them feel at ease by letting them know you appreciate honesty from them more than an attempt at not hurting your feelings.
- ”Hey Bill, I wanted to know your thoughts on how I did in the group project we worked on. Don’t worry about hurting my feelings, I want to know exactly how I did so I can improve.”
Focus on what you can be doing in the future.Of course, you’ll want to hear feedback on past blunders, but only so you’ll know how to avoid them. Ask how the situation could have been avoided. This will show that you’re looking for feedback in order to improve on yourself rather than dwell on past mistakes.
- ”Hey Professor X, I think I’m having some difficulty in meeting the course’s expectations. Can you let me know how I’m doing, and what I could be doing better?”
Ask for feedback regularly.This will show to others you’re willing to receive it. Take frequent opportunities to ask for feedback, such as during an annual review, office hours with a professor or before an important project. This will also make people more comfortable when you do ask them for feedback; they’ll already know you’re thick-skinned enough to warrant honest truths.
- There’s a key difference between asking for feedback regularly and always needing validation. If you find yourself asking for feedback after every little thing you do, people will think you’re insecure and might not give you honest feedback.
Bring something to the table.Bring some timely, important information concerning projects you’re working on. This will make the interaction more of a conversation, making each of you more comfortable, while also making you come across as more helpful. This is especially important when getting feedback from your boss; it’ll make you seem more independent and reliable.
- If you’ve overcome a setback in completing an assigned task, this could be useful information to bring. It might help avoid this setback in similar tasks in the future.
Tailoring Your Questions
Prepare a list of specific points that need feedback.When you do get a chance to ask for feedback, the last thing you want to do is show up unprepared. Before asking for feedback and advice, take some time to think about where you need them most. Taking the time to prepare beforehand will show you respect the person’s time and willingness to discuss things with you.
- If you can, consider sending a list of these points by email before meeting with the person. This will let them give your request some thought before you meet, allowing for more effective feedback.
- Keep your list short. Two or three points should be sufficient.
- Examples of points you can mention are your performance on specific projects, specific flaws they think might need fixing or your attitude.
Vary your questions.Avoid asking only very specific or overly vague questions. Ideally, most of your questions should fall somewhere on the spectrum between these two options. Of course, you can have specific requests and more general questions, but you should mix and match the two categories. This will ensure that you receive a complete feedback, which will help you more effectively put it into action.
- If you’re concerned about your performance on a specific project or task, definitely ask about it. You should also ask questions that encourage positive feedback, such as “What are some things I’m doing well?”
Go after specific information.Whether the answers you’re getting are too vague or you’re just not exactly understanding what you’re being told, you shouldn’t let the matter lie. Don’t hesitate to ask them to clarify their point. Ask for examples.
- For instance, if you’re told that your time management skills could use work, ask for an example of a situation that better time management could have improved. Do so politely, otherwise, you might not get the feedback you want.
Receiving Feedback Graciously
Avoid being defensive.The best way to kill any chance of regularly getting constructive feedback is to interrupt the person to defend yourself. Either they’ll feel like they’re wasting their time and get discouraged, or they’ll try to be polite and stop giving feedback. Even if you’re told something, whether positive or negative, that you don’t agree with, avoid the urge to start a debate.
- An important part of this is to better control negative reactions to criticism. This is imperative to getting the constructive feedback you’re looking for.
Take notes.This shows that you’re absorbing what you’re hearing while allowing you to save the feedback for later review. Reviewing feedback you’ve received by yourself will mean you’re not as likely to react as negatively as when you’ve just received it. Stopping to write also serves to break up the conversation naturally, which might encourage the other person to give you a bit more feedback.
Thank them.Show that you appreciate the time you were given. Being thankful for feedback, rather than reacting defensively, will make the person more likely to give you feedback if you ask again in the future. Reacting negatively could possibly harm your relationship with that person, especially if you went out of your way to ask them for it.
When you ask someone for feedback, reassure them that they won’t be hurting your feelings so they can be more open and helpful. Then, ask a variety of more specific and more general questions so you know exactly what you need to work on, but still see the broader picture. Take notes as the talk so they know you’re paying attention and to help you avoid being defensive, which would only discourage them from telling you more.
- If someone doesn’t want to give you feedback, remember that it might not be because of anything you’ve done. They might simply be too swamped to afford you anytime.
- Don’t be too pushy when asking for feedback; some people just aren’t comfortable having that kind of a conversation.
Video: One-on-One 101:How to ask for feedback
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