Giving Feedback: Focus on Improvement

When giving difficult feedback, we are told to “attack the idea, not the person.” When receiving feedback, we are told to “not take the attack personally.” In many feedback situations, the topic is an idea—a scientific conclusion, an allocation of resources, or a hiring decision. In these situations, the idea, not the person with the idea, should be the subject of the conversation.

However, sometimes feedback is specifically about a behavior, and behavior is about the person, not an idea. To give feedback about a person—it needs to be done without the “attack.” Firmness and tact are in order. A positive caring attitude, intention to improve the behavior and specifics will improve your delivery.



Behavioral feedback is difficult to deliver. There is debate about writing down your opening lines. I believe that it is appropriate to have a guideline—but not a script. There is nothing wrong with admitting that the conversation is difficult for you. This does not make you weak. It actually shows that you care enough to want to get it right, and provides a very different tenor to the conversation that can work in your favor to helping someone accept that a change is necessary.

On Wednesday, I’ll share my own personal script for giving behavioral feedback. You can expect lots of examples that you can implement right away!

Jonathan Shaver