Stop Asking For Feedback

Many years ago, I applied for a role I had considered my dream job. I made it to the last round of the interview process where I had to give a presentation at the company. When I was done, I asked them for feedback. “How did it go?” I said and received some damning and utterly unactionable comments. I left the room with a deflated sense of self. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

Throughout my career, I was made to believe that asking for feedback is critical because that’s how we learn and grow. But according to research, feedback has little impact on our performance. Over one-third of the time, it actually negatively impacts performance.

Be Specific in the Type of Advice You are Seeking

Of course, when you’re in the early stages of your career, it’s good to know where you went wrong or what’s lacking in your performance. But it’s more important is knowing how to make it better and improve. So focus on asking for advice instead of asking for feedback. And to get the best advice possible, use these four tips.

Be Specific in the Type of Advice You are Seeking

When asking for advice, specifying the category of help you want will make it more useful. For example, are you looking for a sounding board for an idea? Methods to improve your communication skills? Or alternative solutions to a problem you’re facing?

Ask yourself, “What will really help me get better at [problem]?” For example, instead of asking, “What do you think of my revenue numbers from last quarter?” you could say, “So far, I’ve tried [a] and [b] but I haven’t been able to meet my goal. How would you have gone about doing this?”

Show them the Way

If you ask people to think about what could help you in the future, the advice you will receive will be more specific and actionable. For example, you could make the ask specific, such as, “What could I change about my presentation skills to deliver a more powerful presentation next time?” or “Could you give me a few tips to make my slides more appealing?” Alternatively, you could try asking more broadly-framed (yet, still future-oriented) questions. Instead of saying, “How did you think it went today?” you could ask, “What could I do better next time?” and receive useful advice that can help you think in new ways and move forward instead of rehashing the past.

Give a Little Nudge

If someone gives you vague feedback such as “You did great” or “You could do better,” don’t just stop the conversation there. Prod further and extract the advice you need. You could say, “What specifically did I do well?” or “What is one thing I can do better next time?” Probing will ensure the conversation is useful and one that actually helps you improve in the future.

Ask the Right Person

When you’re looking for solid feedback, you may be tempted to seek multiple points of view (the more the better, right?). But research has found that receiving too many pieces of different advice often makes us more likely to ignore it. The opinions you receive could be conflicting and could leave you confused. And if your advice-giver realizes that you’re reaching out to many people, they may also be hesitant to give you real, actionable feedback because they aren’t sure if you’ll take it to heart over someone else’s words of wisdom.

Good advice can be transformative, especially when you’re just starting out or have little experience. So the next time you’re in need of advice, follow these suggestions to get feedback that actually works.


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