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Rethink your assumptions about feedback

(February 6, 2024 Newsletter)

It’s me, your friendly neighborhood coach here to remind you that feedback is just information.

It’s true whether you’re an anxious giver or receiver of feedback and keeping it top of mind can free you up to have more honest, generative, and regular conversations with team members.

What kind of information? As Tara Mohr says in Playing Big, “Feedback is emotionally neutral information that tells you what resonates for your desired audience, what engaged the people you want to engage, what influences the people you want to influence.”

Below are some more detailed tools for bringing this to life at work.

For anxious givers of feedback:

  1. Frame it as your experience, period. If your opinion matters to someone, phrasing feedback as your perception will be just as valuable as claiming to own the truth. In fact, it may be more valuable to understand how something is landing with you. For example, “You’re all over the place” will almost certainly cause the other person to be defensive and is easily dismissed, while “I’m having trouble seeing consistent principles in your decision making” can lead to reflection and learning (even if it’s still hard to hear!).  

  2. High-trust relationships can still have conflict. Just because you upset someone doesn’t mean they’ll stay upset forever or that they won’t take something valuable from what you said. The question is whether the friction can help align or clear something up.

  3. Offer support. The best feedback opens conversation rather than shutting it down. When you can end with a question mark or give space for the person to reply – ideally leading to next steps that work for both of you – I’d give it an A+.  

For anxious receivers of feedback:

  1. Watch out for poor form. If feedback is communicated to you as generalizations, doesn’t include a specific request or invitation for a conversation, or is phrased as some truth bomb, it’s them, not you (or rather, it could be them and you).

  2. Learn something about the giver. As per the quote up top from Playing Big, feedback primarily gives you information about what matters to the other person. So no matter the form, use it as an opportunity to make a mental note of their preferences or priorities so you can adjust accordingly (if the person matters to you enough).

  3. You can always filter the message. Not every piece of feedback shared needs to be taken fully and implemented immediately. Perhaps the person who’s sharing the feedback doesn’t have a full picture of the scenario, or their perspective isn’t that important to you moving ahead as you were. Take from it what you’d like and leave the rest behind.

In short, when you’re on either end of the initiation of a feedback conversation, the best advice I can offer is to say to yourself, “There is something here for me to learn.” For the givers, it’s a reminder to stay humble. For the receivers, it’s a reminder to stay grounded.

If you want to read more from the Dolgin Leadership Group on feedback, check out previous posts here and here.


The Coaching Corner

Correcting little mistakes quickly

When you see something that doesn’t look right to you, point it out ASAP and ask a follow up question to find out where the confusion was.

If there is something you can do to clear it up (you thought the instructions were clear but turns out they weren’t) then great; if there is something that requires a larger conversation, then great too (the person doesn’t have access to the files you asked them to use but was too afraid to ask).

Take your part of the responsibility, make sure there’s clarity moving forward, and the issue won’t become a bigger deal than it needs to be.



My husband and I recently finished watching “Super Pumped,” a show about the rise and fall of Travis Kalanick, Founder of Uber (played by Joseph Gordon Levitt). I’m so glad someone put this 1-minute scene on Youtube because it had me giggling for days. We all have moments of not saying what we really mean, but we rarely get to enjoy the subtitles.

“GenAI can help small companies level the playing field” – most of my clients fall into the category of “resource-strapped.” They have big ambitions and never seem to have enough people, time, or money to do it all. That’s why I encourage many of them to seek out Generative AI tools to fill gaps and do things for them quickly and cheaply. This article lays out a few ideas, including video, image, and music generation for marketing materials, and much more.


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