Leadership Tactic #70: How to Ask for Feedback

I love to give feedback. Love it. I’d wager that this is pretty universal–who doesn’t like to offer advice?

Over the past few months, I’ve seen the number of varied requests for my feedback increase significantly. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe because I’m putting the offer out there more often.

I’ve given people feedback on relationships and dating, on applications and resumes, on online dating profiles, on blogs and novels, on event planning and fundraising. For many of those, I spend hours offering advice or even completely rewriting documents for the person. I genuinely enjoy sharing my thoughts and (hopefully) helping people, so if any of those apply to you, feel free to email me at jamey.stegmaier@gmail.com.

That said, as much as I enjoy giving feedback, I’ve noticed a few patterns that I have a feeling are quite common in the world of feedback and advice. So I’d like to propose three universal rules for asking for and receiving feedback:

  1. Dude, I applaud that you embrace your dorkiness and don't hide it, but you need to ask for feedback about your online dating profile.

    Decide if You Want Feedback or Just Someone to Listen: This is a really important distinction to figure out and communicate before you go to someone for advice. If you’re not ready to act on feedback you receive, don’t ask for it. Just tell the person that you need someone to listen to you. I actually wonder about this a lot when people ask me for help on their online dating profile. Do you really want my advice, or do you just need to vent for a minute about how frustrating dating can be? You taking 3 seconds to figure out what you want can save me 30 minutes of rewriting your personal summary.

  2. Report Back to the Feedbacker. When you ask someone for feedback, you’re under no obligation to follow their advice, but you do need to follow up with them afterwards to let them know which parts of the advice you used and how it went. This lets the feedbacker know that the time they spent was worth it, and it gives them the opportunity to learn from your experience. I’d say that 90% of the time, I never hear back from someone after I give them feedback. I’ve found that I’m no better at this than anyone else, but I’m aware of it, and I’m working on it. It’s the same level of courtesy as sending a thank-you note.
  3. If You Choose Not to Follow Their Feedback the First Time and Your Solution Doesn’t Work, Try Their Solution. Just do it. Try it. If you value the person’s time and advice, follow their feedback and see if it works. Then report back to them. And if you asked that person just to listen to you the first time, the next time you go to them about the same situation, it’s time for you to ask for their advice and to act on it. Friends are not therapists.

What’s your experience with giving and receiving advice? In which areas do you feel that you give particularly good feedback?