There is a plethora of advice about how to give feedback but not so much has been written about how to get useful feedback from people. It can be hard to draw out candid feedback from the people around you.  This may be because they are just too nice to share their views with you or feel too intimated to be completely open and honest.  Use the following tips to increase your chances of hearing the truth.

  1. Be clear that you want candid feedback. Let people know they are doing you a favour by being truthful. “Don’t be nice,” you can tell them. “Be helpful.” Explain that you want to get the most out of their feedback, and it won’t work if they hold back.
  2. Focus on the future. Ask what you can do better going forward as opposed to what you did wrong in the past. People tend to be more open and honest when focusing on the future rather than dwelling on the past.
  3. Be specific.   Guide the other person by explaining to them the skills you want to improve.  For example simply asking ‘how do you think I can improve’ is not as helpful as ‘I want to develop my presentation skills further.  You have seen me present several times now, so what 2 or 3 things would you recommend that I work on to improve for next time?
  4. Listen without prejudice. Try not to judge any feedback you receive or be defensive either.  Thank people for being honest with you and let them know that you find their observations and opinions helpful. If they think that you really want the truth and you won’t react poorly to negative feedback, they’ll be more willing to be completely honest. If you get defensive about anything, they’ll stop and be polite.
  5. Write down what they say. This tactic accomplishes two things. A little silence communicates that you’re taking feedback seriously and it gives those offering it time to think about what else they might say. Often they’ll volunteer a second — and very important — thought while waiting for you to finish writing.
  6. Act on it.  This may sound obvious but if you constantly ask for feedback but then don’t act on it, people will stop giving it to you!

It may be hard to hear the truth, but, in the long run, it’s even harder not to. If you want to learn more then our Giving and Receiving Feedback Course or 1 to 1 training will help improve your feedback skills.