How to Give Unsolicited Feedback

Giving good feedback is an art. When someone wants to listen, at least they’re open. But if they don’t want to listen, you need to find a way to open their ears before they’ll open their minds.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #234

Get Them Interested By Aligning Goals

If you really, really, really know a person needs your advice and will appreciate you once they’ve heard it, you can try persuading them to listen. Mentally put yourself in their shoes. If you were this person, what would your goals be? If they’re writing a sales report, their goals could include finishing their project, impressing their boss, getting a promotion, or having the satisfaction of seeing the product in the hands of millions of people.

You can even ask, “What are your goals with this report?” The worst they can do is refuse to answer.

Make it About What They Want

Once you know the goals, frame your feedback in those terms.. For this to work, get agreement on the goals, then ask for permission again. “You’re working really hard on this report. Do you think this will be the report that gets you promoted to Not-Quite-Grand Poobah?” “Yes,” is the reply, “I sure hope so.” “I have an idea for how you could increase your chances of becoming Not-Quite-Grand Poobah. Would you like to hear it?”

If they say no it’s a fine time to change the topic and discuss pop culture or your favorite TV show. Like Breaking Bad. Nothing takes your mind off a marketing report like figuring out how to run a successful meth lab.

If you hound them to listen, neither of you will have a good time.

Be Prepared For Rejection

Even if they listen, there’s no guarantee they’ll take your advice. Once you’ve given it, know that you’ve done all you can. If you have a deep, emotional need for your advice to be followed, you just have to let it go. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. If you hound, however, neither of you will have a good time.

Next time you’re tempted to give unsolicited feedback or advice, stop. Ask permission. Honor the person’s answer. Be non-judgmental and specific if the person says “yes.” If the answer is “no,” your best bet is to drop it or to link the advice to their highest goals. Once you’ve said your piece, sit back, relax, and let it ride.  

And, no, guy who-wrote-in-complaining-about-my-sense-of-humor, I won’t change. Unless you pay me. I’m available for one-on-one coaching, workshops, webinars, and speeches, and if you’re the client, I’ll take any advice you have to offer on what would make my material that much more valuable to you. Visit http://www.SteverRobbins.com for more information.

I consult with people on how to give and receive good feedback, advice, and direction. If you want to know more, visit http://www.SteverRobbins.com.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

Business Men Discussing Report, Business Women Discusing Report, and Women Discussing Cosmetics images from Shutterstock


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.