How To Offer Unsolicited Feedback

There have been many times people have come up to me after a talk to tell me what they got out of it, how much the content resonated and every once in a while, to offer me unsolicited feedback. My response to each and every one one of them is to sincerely say, “thank you.”


I remember one woman who told me what I should do if I wanted to _______. I smiled, thanked her and thought to myself. I don’t want to _______. She then handed me a card and told me she could help me with that. Perhaps she had some other motivations than providing me with useful information.


An audience member recently shared how she tried to offer feedback to her boss. It didn’t land well.


So how do you provide feedback when it wasn’t asked for?


First thing is to make sure there is value for the person receiving it and it is not just venting, complaining or berating.


You want to deliver feedback on a silver platter versus on a garbage can lid. You think that succulent meal looks so yummy and tasty but then it’s served on a garbage can lid, so you’re not going to eat it.


She started strong by asking, “Are you open to some feedback?” Love the phrase, right? Then she proceeded to say, “The direction you gave me on this project was very unclear and very unhelpful, and that’s why it didn’t go well.” It wasn’t quite a garbage can lid but it wasn’t a silver platter either. She asked to have the conversation, but then we went into language of judgment.


I suggested that she open with, “Are you open to discussing how we can collaborate more effectively.” Or how we might plan the next delegation of the assignment. Or something that is about how we’re working together, and there’s mutual impact versus, “I’m coming here and telling you that YOU did this, that YOU were unhelpful.”


Lastly, instead of language that is declarative and full of conclusions and judgments such as, “Your directions were unclear,” Think about the language of accountability, even when giving feedback. Use “I” statements that show how it was your interpretation or experience. Avoid blame language of “you” with assumptions and judgement.


Choose words that allows somebody to take action. For example, saying, “Next time, when there’s an assignment, what would be clearer for me is…” or, “Perhaps, I was unclear and next time I will ask more questions.”


Suggested actions are also productive such as, “Here’s the information that will be helpful the next time we’re working on a project together.” That also gives some ownership and accountability for your piece because it does take two.


When we think about offering information, and that’s what I think feedback is, think about your part in how to move the needle and take action rather than blame.


if you want to hear more about what I shared, check out the video here.


If you have a tough feedback conversation, email me back, your situation may be the next one I tackle.

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