Critical Feedback – Giving and Using.

I’ve been looking at how to give critical feedback and how to use it when you receive it. Critical feedback to me means critiquing someone and looking at what they can improve on but in a professional way. There is less of an emphasis on the ‘you’ part, but more emphasis on what you did, that could be made better. We have been using it a lot in our communication skills module.

How do you give critical feedback?

Critical feedback is important when talking to other students and colleagues and when you need to say what is good and what needs to be improved on. You can give critical feedback, by using a sandwich technique and by using neutral words.

The sandwich technique is in three parts. You give the person a positive, then follow with something they could improve on and then finish off with a positive. So for example – You were really calm in that situation, but you could have reacted a little faster, but I liked the way you spoke to the service user. This is called a ‘critical sandwich’ and is something I use frequently, when I am giving critical feedback to a friend or colleague at work.

You should be specific with critical feedback. If you want someone to get better at a specific skill, then highlight this. It is more important to pick a specific area, than be generic.

Another thing that you can do when giving critical feedback is using neutral words. You can use words that aren’t powerful. For example instead of using ‘amazing’ or ‘difficult’, you could use ‘good’ and ‘hard’.

If we don’t give critical feedback, then we can’t learn to receive it.

How do I use critical feedback? 

Once you have learned how to give critical feedback, it is easier to receive and vice versa. To give is to receive. Using critical feedback is important, so you can improve on your practice. When receiving critical feedback, think about the positive that a person gives you, especially if they use the sandwich technique. These positives highlight your strengths so are important to remember. What is pointed out as a negative, is not a negative, it is merely something you need to improve on. You can get suggestions on how to improve, which should be a part of critical feedback.

You can write your feedback down and look back on it, so it can be used as a reflective tool or something that can help CPD (Continuous Professional Development). You can also tell other people your critical feedback and see if they agree. This can be a negative thing, but if many people identify the same strengths then you can be assured that it is a strength and one that other people notice. In relation to things you need to improve on, if many people agree, then this too is a good thing, as it means that people want you to improve in that skill and want you to have it as a strength.

Being a critical friend is a great skill to have, it means you can give critical feedback and receive it too. You can’t give without taking and take without giving. So why not give it a try with a friend or a colleague. You don’t have to be in a formal situation to give feedback, you can do it informally, on the phone, over a coffee at break time…any time, anywhere.


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