Human Resources

The Art of Giving Feedback and Compliments

Giving Compliments

The key to giving compliments is conveying your sincerity so that the recipient of the compliment is truly flattered and appreciative of the compliment. An insincere compliment does not convey the same message. If you are giving the compliment for your own personal gain, your lack of sincerity will result in the person receiving the compliment not really feeling touched by your words. To ensure that your compliment is received with the sincerity that you intend, try these tips.

  • Keep your compliment simple and specific.
  • Offer your compliment in a timely manner.
  • Sincere compliments are spoken from the heart and are not premeditated.
  • Consider giving your compliment in writing or in front of others.
  • Truly believe in the compliment you are giving.
  • A sincere compliment stems from a genuine feeling of admiration and appreciation.

Giving Feedback

Learning how to give feedback and criticism in a way that the person you are talking to will take it in and learn from it may be a leader’s greatest tool for building an effective team. These are the tools that the best of the best use to make their teams strong.

Consider the tips below the next time you offer a faculty or staff member constructive criticism so they won't go running for cover or say, "No thank you." Instead they will see it as an opportunity to grow and your team will grow along with them.

  1. Take an honest look at where you're coming from. If there's some anger or resentment toward the team member, then you're probably not the best person to offer them advice.
  2. Start and end with a compliment. Find something good to say about your team member, this will help him or her take in your advice. At the end of the conversation, it will help your faculty or staff member to feel that they aren't a failure or that you're not angry.
  3. Listen to your own voice. The tone of your voice can communicate as much (if not more) than the words you choose. If there is an edge to your voice it will be harder for your faculty or staff member to take in your request.
  4. Eye contact is important.  It helps both of you stay focused and it communicates sincerity. It will also help you stay on topic. If you're working on the computer or busy with something, stop what you're doing and look at the person you're speaking to.
  5. Choose the best time and place. Never give criticism in public, in front of another person, or when you or your faculty or staff member may be too tired or hungry to deal with it appropriately. If you're physically uncomfortable you may not be in the best frame of mind to talk about a difficult subject.
  6. Do your best to avoid hurting anyone's feelings. Use a softened start-up followed by a gentle suggestion. For example you could say, "I really like the way to talk to your supervisor, you would get a better response from your faculty or staff members if you spoke to them in the same way.
  7. Talk about the behavior not the person. Feedback is not about insulting someone's behavior; it's about telling him or her how to be better. For example, you would never say to a child, "You are a mistake." Instead you would say, "You made a mistake."
  8. Use gentle humor if possible. If you can deliver criticism in a light-hearted manner, it will be received in a much more positive way. Humor doesn't diminish the seriousness of the feedback you are giving, it actually helps the person receiving the direction to open up and take it in.
  9. Work with your team member to improve the situation. This will help him or her to make the appropriate adjustments sooner rather than later. It will also strengthen your bond as a team. Making changes is easier if you have someone supporting you.
  10. Don't harp. Once you have asked for what you need from your team member, let it go. If you have to ask someone to do something four times, I can promise you that the person in question has heard what you have to say. If you've reached an agreement or agreed to disagree, let it go and move on, holding a grudge is a waste of time.

What to say next...

Most people say they’re OK receiving constructive criticism. But few people really are. Criticism of any kind hurts, even if it’s done properly.

When someone reacts poorly to constructive criticism, they usually:

  • Get angry.
  • Get defensive.
  • Get quiet and tune out.

The key for the person giving the constructive criticism is to be prepared with these responses:

  1. “I understand.” Don’t respond to anger, defensiveness and quietness with the same emotions. Keeping an even keel and expressing your understanding is important. Bring things back to the performance or behavior that is problematic.
  2. “So what you’re saying…” A well-practiced technique in communication is to repeat what someone has said, in summary form. It makes people truly feel like you’re listening. (Hopefully you are listening.)
  3. “We can work together on this.” Constructive criticism is useless without focusing on solutions. You can’t provide criticism and then say, “off you go, figure it out.” Make it a “we” task not a “you” task.

Sometimes, there’s nothing you can say to make the situation better. It may be time for a break. Suggest a follow-up meeting, providing each person a chance to reflect, and figure out how the constructive criticism will be handled.

Page last modified March 28, 2012