Effective feedback is detailed, timely, and intended to help the recipient perform better and develop as an employee. In order to ensure that your intentions are in the right place when giving feedback, you'll want to avoid the below phrases, which can derail your conversation and leave the wrong impression.
1. "To be honest …"
This phrase implies that there was a time when you were not being honest. It's also regularly a precursor to a surprising piece of information. Remove this phrase from your feedback conversation; give the feedback you want to give without it.
2. "Everyone thinks …"
Remove rumors and speaking for a group when providing feedback. You run the risk of losing credibility or unwittingly dragging colleagues into a conversation that they're not prepared to enter. Instead, share how the behavior impacts you and you alone.
3. "No offense …"
Just stop here. That’s right, no offense, nothing even resembling offense. If you have to say this term, stop and rethink the rest of the phrase. You've likely crossed a line from feedback to criticism.
4. "I’m sure you …"
You can never be sure of what someone thinks or knows, and if you are sure, there's no need to say it. This is also a precursor statement to assigning motive. You can only be sure of how something is impacting you. It’s very difficult to accurately guess someone’s thought process or motives behind a behavior, so it’s best to avoid this phrase altogether.
5. "If you want to succeed …"
People succeed in many different ways, and you don't get to decide how or if someone succeeds. This is true even for bosses talking to employees. Success looks different to everyone, and this phrase may be seen as threatening, especially if you're giving a review.
6. "You should …"
It's so much more powerful for someone to come to a conclusion on their own. Help the receiver understand the repercussions of their actions and possible steps forward rather than instructing them on how to proceed. Think about how happy your best friend or partner is when they "discover" something you’ve been telling them for months. They needed to get there on their own. And coming to conclusions on one’s own often brings more impactful conclusions.
7. "If I were you …"
You’re not. Unless directly asked what you would do, avoid this phrase.
8. "This has been a problem for a while …"
Feedback should be given in a timely manner. If something has been an issue for months, or longer, you’ve done the feedback receiver a disservice. Share feedback as soon as you’re able so it’s fresh in the receiver’s mind and easier to adjust behaviors.
9. "You're always ..."
Speaking in absolutes weakens your point. It’s rare that someone "always" or "never" does something, so your feedback will likely be immediately dismissed as not credible. Instead, soften these terms to "regularly" and "rarely," respectively.
10. "Be more like [X] ..."
Rather than comparing individuals or team members, share concrete examples of behaviors. Outcomes can be achieved differently and still be effective. Get to the root of a problem by sharing clear details rather than comparisons.
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.
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