top of page

9 Tips for Giving Difficult Feedback

So you’ve decided that the “difficult conversation” is worth the investment of time, energy, and attention. Now what?

Below are 9 Tips for Giving Difficult Feedback. Read them or watch the 11 minute video below, which goes into more detail. And if you’re new to having transparent, direct conversations, experiment with developing your style and skill by giving difficult feedback in low stakes situations.

🔹1. Ask for permission to give feedback - get buy-in & consent:

Ex: “Are you open to some feedback?”

🔹2. Be specific. Name an observable behavior or context.

Vague feedback can backfire and often breeds paranoia and mistrust; it’s ultimately ineffective, inefficient, and unkind. Relay observable behaviors, contexts, and origins of feedback as much as possible. Name the behavior, your experience of it, and the potential consequence or reason for concern. Own when it’s your subjective perception, story, or narrative.

Ex: “People think you seem unprofessional during zoom meetings” (vague, breeds paranoia)


Ex: “I noticed that you frowned a lot throughout this morning’s meeting when people shared their ideas. I’m concerned that people may not engage with your great ideas if you appear negative about theirs.” (specific, actionable)

🔹3. Pair it with a naming a strength you genuinely see and a reason for concern that comes from caring personally.

🔹4. Be warm; tone is everything. Tone clearly states whether you care personally or not.

🔹5. Demonstrate respect by acknowledging it’s their choice as part of their “professional brand”.

Ex: “It’s 100% up to you how to present yourself, but I wanted to call attention to it as something to be aware of and consider as part of your professional presence”.

🔹6. Address it quickly and ideally immediately after the event—that way it’s fresh and relevant and it doesn’t seem like you’ve been holding on to it. Don’t “save it” for a weekly 1:1, or a performance review.

Ex: “Are you open to some feedback about this morning’s meeting?”

🔹7. Offer a specific ask or suggestion—and/or ask them if they have ideas for what they could try.

Ex: “Do you have ideas for how to improve the lighting while you’re on Zoom so people can see you?"

Ex: “Would you be willing to turn on a lamp or try a ring light, so people can see you better?”

🔹8. Check in with how the feedback lands, and what they think of modifying that behavior. This can range from open-ended/“pull” to directive/push:

Ex: “What’s it like to hear this feedback?” or “How is this feedback landing for you?” (“Pull”

Ex: "I'd like you to turn your video during the next all-hands, so people get a chance to see you and you appear more engaged. Would you be willing to do that?” (“Push”)

🔹9. Offer information and resources if you have them

Offer an article, research, or training. If there’s budget, offer access to a coach to work on the specific behavior/skill. This supplements validity and creates a bridge to development opportunities.

Lastly, thank them for listening and considering your feedback.

If you’re new to having transparent, direct conversations, experiment with developing your style and skill by giving difficult feedback in low stakes situations. Difficult conversations are often dreaded because they ARE risky and can compromise a relationship when handled poorly--so this is one skill worth honing, practicing, and refining!

47 views0 comments


bottom of page