Constructive feedback – a lost art

Giving criticism is not always easy, but it is a crucial skill you need in personal and business life


The first speech I ever gave at Toastmasters was a speech called Man in the Mirror. I made reference to the great Michael Jackson and spoke about how I needed to change in order for the world to change. After my speech a guy approached me and said he didn’t like my speech. I was quite heartbroken to be honest and I spent the following two weeks completely rewriting the speech. I came back to the following meeting and gave a new speech. I still spoke about being the change in the world, but I changed the stories, the title and pretty much everything. After the speech the same guy came up to me and asked where my amazing speech had gone? He said that he loved my previous speech, he loved the stories of my sisters and my parents as he felt he was a part of my family. He said he loved the introduction and the closing was powerful. Then, at last, he said, the only thing I didn’t like about your speech was the title you used. I was ready to rip his head off because he made me spend two weeks fixing something that wasn’t broken. The thing is, we give this kind of feedback to people all the time. Below is a structure one can use to give constructive feedback.

  1. Start with something positive; people quickly reject negative feedback, but if you can start with a compliment it will break down that barrier and help the person received the constructive message.
  2. Position the constructive criticism as an area to develop instead of a failure. Again, people are sensitive and if you can position it as a growth point, people will feel inspired to move forward.
  3. Be specific. Don’t tell someone that their presentation is not good, rather tell them exactly what in the presentation is not good. Is there a spelling mistake on slide 3? Is the colour of the closing slides inconsistent with the rest? The most specific, the easier it will be to fix.
  4. Explain how you want them to be in the future. Give them specific solutions to their problem. If you don’t like the colour scheme of a presentation, ask them to use a specific colour that you approve of. It will help them fix the presentation quicker.

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Feedback is a crucial skill to learn, it will help you in your business and personal life. Use it well, use it often.

This technique was learnt from my mentor, Richard Riche. If you would like more information around the feedback methodology, please go to


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