I have some feedback for you...

I read this excellent thread from Amanda Silver about "feedback":

...and it reminded me to blog about what I learned from the book "Thanks for the Feedback" by the authors of "Difficult conversations" (Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen).

There is a lot of depth to this book. I want to share the first major insight they provide:

When someone says "I'd like some feedback" there are several different things they might mean.

They might mean:

  1. "I'd like appreciation and encouragement," or
  2. "I'd like coaching/training from an expert," or
  3. "I'd like to be evaluated."

And, if someone says "I have some feedback for you" they might mean to provide any one of those three distinct things. That feeling, by the way, is the blood draining from your face. And it's in part because you're not sure what sort of feedback they're about to hit you with.

If my daughter has just played trumpet in front of 300 people and she says "How did I go?" it's not the time for coaching or evaluating: it's good old appreciation and encouragement. This applies even if, in addition to being a mum or dad, you are a world class trumpet player.

When you've applied for a job and you've heard nothing, you write and ask for feedback. You might be chasing type 3: "Did I get the job?" If they respond with "Your choice of shirt was excellent," (a weak type 1), you're not completely satisfied.

Other times, it's less clear.

So before replying with feedback, the magic trick is to ask the person what sort of feedback they want.

And if requesting feedback, be specific about the type of feedback you'd like to receive. (And then try to accept whatever you get!)

As I said, the book goes a lot further. It digs deep into the psychology of feedback, the overlap between different types, the way different people respond to different stimuli ("baseline", "swing", "sustain", "recovery," oh my!) and much more. Feedback is a crucial part of life in civilization.

I found it a worthy book.


My book "Choose Your First Product" is available now.

It gives you 4 easy steps to find and validate a humble product idea.

Learn more.

(By the way, I read every comment and often respond.)

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