The 5 W's of Giving Feedback

Published: Monday, December 14, 2015

Feedback is something that shouldn't be frosty or cold.  It should always be tempered with warmth.

I am a person who is always looking for feedback, constructive criticism, and critique about my life, work, and abilities. This keeps me humble to grow, hungry to learn, and happy when the feedback helps. On the flipside, I am not shy about giving back in these mediums to others. I have distilled some core truths into the 5 W’s that must happen for the information one shares to be effective.


The feedback you are going to give is going to be for your colleague, a teammate, your children or spouse. Knowing this, your words should be full of grace and sensitivity. Before even starting to deliver feedback, anticipate the possible feelings and behaviors of the other person. By better knowing the individual you are going to have a conversation with, you can position what you are going to say.


It is very difficult at times to have a feedback discussion that is focus.  Consider writing down on paper what you wish to talk about first. Once you have done this, review and ask yourself if the feedback is at the right level.

  • Is the feedback that you want to give going to be helpful. If not stop.
  • If there is negative feedback, is it balanced fairly with positive tones.
  • Be succinct in the feedback you are giving. Don’t barrage the recipient with too much. Focus on the most important and let the others go, perhaps forever or after the initial feedback has had time to sink in.


One of the fatal mistakes around giving feedback is timing. One of the most respectful questions you can ask is if it is ok to share with the other person. They may say no. Respect that answer and move on. When you are able to share, allocate an appropriate amount of time. Make sure that there is enough buffer for the other person to respond and have a dialog with the feedback. They may have questions or concerns. Also be where of the time of day. Are they morning people or evening people? Do they have stressful situations at certain times of the day that would make them less responsive?


In person is usually the best place to have conversations. Make sure there is privacy. Don’t make the feedback email driven or through text messages. Take the time to deliver feedback at a place where the person is comfortable. I always shoot for a cup of coffee and a quiet office if possible.


Make sure you understand why you wish to give feedback. Make sure that you feel that it is in the person’s best interests and you have thought deeply about how it may affect them. The goal for any feedback should be to help the person grow and become a better person. I don’t see any other benefits than this. If your why for delivering feedback isn’t along these lines, reconsider.

I am appreciative of the feedback opportunities I am given and see it as a way to invest in the significance of others. How do you deliver feedback and what would you add?