Everyone needs constructive criticism or a second opinion sometimes, but receiving feedback from colleagues and peers can be a lot harder than you’d expect. Many people squirm when they’re asked for their opinions, and they either avoid giving one altogether, or the feedback they offer is overly polite at best, and downright unhelpful at worst. Constructive, honest feedback turns out to be a rare commodity, but getting valuable critiques from trusted peers doesn’t have to be like pulling teeth. Understanding why people avoid offering their honest opinions can help, and being strategic about how you ask for feedback can make getting the answers you need a lot easier.
Reasons People Don’t Give Honest Feedback:
- People are conditioned to be polite.
- They don’t want to hurt feelings.
- They don’t want to commit (they think their opinion might be wrong or doesn’t matter).
- They dread the blowback if you don’t like what they say.
- They don’t want to damage the relationship.
Here are 7 helpful strategies to get the honest feedback you need:
1) Set the Stage for Honesty: When seeking feedback from others, start the conversation by letting them know that you really do want honest feedback. Tell them that you don’t need to know what is working as much as you need to understand what isn’t working. Making a straightforward request for honesty over flattery can help break through the stalemate faster.
2) Ask for Tips, Not Opinions: People are hesitant to offer their honest opinions, because they don’t want to hurt feelings or sound presumptuous. Take the pressure off them by asking what actions you can take, and avoid the issue of opinions altogether. Instead of asking, “Do you like this?” or “Do you think this works?” ask, “How can I make this stronger?” or “Should I add anything else?
3) Guide the Answers with Specific Questions: Sometimes people aren’t sure what kind of feedback you want, so they avoid committing by saying something vague, general, and not very helpful. Point them in the right direction by asking about specific issues you’re hoping to address. Consider questions like, “Does this example help clarify my point?” “Is this chart easy to read?” and “Do you see three sentences I can cut to make this more succinct?”
4) Ask About Weaknesses: People desperately want to avoid saying anything that could be perceived as negative, but that constructive criticism is often the most critical for making real improvements. Ask directly about weaknesses. By putting the idea of weaknesses on the table first, you open the door to constructive criticism and give your colleague unspoken permission to be honest. Try asking, “What don’t you like?” or “What would you do to make it better?”Constructive criticism is often the most critical for making real improvements. Click To Tweet
5) Give it to Get it: Offering your own opinion is one of the most effective ways to get others to share theirs. People give back what they get. Set a precedent of providing your honest opinion when asked. Frequently offer to exchange feedback with trusted colleagues to establish a track record of open communication and create a trusting environment.
6) Embrace the Good AND the Bad: Always show appreciation for feedback, even if when it’s hard to hear. If you react badly when colleagues share their honest opinions, they will never give them to you again. Remember that you’re the one asking for their critique, so it’s only fair for you to accept any constructive criticism they may have. Closing yourself off to honest critiques works against you and your work. Feedback is a gift. It’s your chance to improve your work before its final, but asking for feedback when all you really want is flattery puts your colleagues in an unfair position and wastes their valuable time.
7) Ask the Right People: There will always be some people who are more willing to share their opinions than others. If you really want honest feedback, go to those who will offer it freely. You don’t have to take their advice, but you’re sure to get something valuable from the conversation.
Getting people to be brutally honest in the workplace can be tricky when egos and manners get in the way, but the misconception that being honest IS brutal is the problem to begin with. Help contribute to a corporate culture of open communication by showing your enthusiasm for peer critiques. Thank colleagues who are willing to share their opinions, and fully own whatever feedback they offer. Act as an example to others by sharing your own honest critiques freely. None of us can do our best work in a vacuum, and the advantage of working with a diverse group of people is the unique perspectives individuals can offer to help each other excel.
We are Cydcor, the recognized leader in outsourced sales services located in Agoura Hills, Calif. From our humble beginnings as an independent sales company to garnering a reputation as the global leader in outsourced sales, Cydcor takes pride in having exceptional sales professionals and providing our clients with proven sales and marketing strategies that get results.
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