Deliver Engaging Negative Feedback

There are few things as common and challenging in everyday work as giving feedback, especially negative feedback.

What is (negative) feedback all about?

When delivering such negative feedback, we are often meet with fierce opposition or worse, quiet indifference. Both mean we failed the goal we had in mind when delivering our feedback: To change a behavior or an attitude of the person or group we addressed. Both signify a lack of engagement that would be the base for the desired change. If we want to avoid this fate, we need to ensure to deliver the most engaging feedback possible.

How to deliver engaging feedback

With Observe, Feel, Need, Request – Charles-Axel Dein describes a great structure to deliver negative feedback in the most convincing and engaging way possible.

  1. Observe: Start the conversation with a non-controversial fact.
  2. Feel: Express how you personally feel about this fact, while emphasizing the subjectivity of this feeling.
  3. Need: State the general need you have, the general change you would like to happen.
  4. Request: Explain the concrete action you would like the other person to take.

Building engagement – One step at a time

Observe, sets the topic and gives you a common, conflict-free starting point, as an objective fact is hardly a cause for controversy. Feel, both helps by getting the other person emotionally involved and by limiting options for confrontation, by acknowledging your feelings and stories subjectivity. Need, makes the transition from your subjective observation into the objective realm, by keeping the the need or change general, you limit the options for confrontation again. Talking about a need in general helps with involvement too, who would not like to help, in general? Request, finishes the argument, giving your request for change a concrete form and direction. Because that’s what we are here for, after all.

Observe, Feel, Need, Request

Observe, Feel, Need, Request is an equally simple and powerful structure to deliver engaging feedback. To get a taste beforehand, check out Charles Dein’s examples on how not to deliver feedback.