Do you have the opportunity to give advice or feedback? Maybe it's about someone's article or proposal. Maybe it's about their performance evaluation. Or maybe it's about helping them with a big pitch or presentation that's coming up.

In any case, it's all too tempting to either do a gloss over and say, “Oh wow, that's great” when you know that it can be improved. Or on the other end of the spectrum, to try and save time and just give it to them straight and unload everything that you think is wrong.

As tempting as those two paths of action are, neither of them is a winning strategy. Instead, you want to look for the third way.

Recently two of my daughters found a wonderful third way to give advice and feedback, which I want to share with you.

The Third Way to Give Feedback

My oldest daughter had a job interview that she was really nervous about it. She called her sister, my middle daughter, to talk about it. The net result was a quality conversation where my older daughter was left with not only a better script for the interview, but also greater confidence and feeling wonderful. She felt wonderful not only about the conversation, but also about that “not so scary anymore” interview that she was about to have.

Here are the three things that my middle daughter did that made it such a great experience for her sister.

1. Tone

First was the tone of the conversation. She used only positive words. She didn’t say things like “no,” “never,” “not,” or “wouldn't do it that way”. Instead she used positive words and forward-looking language.

So, it wasn't about evaluating what had already been done but it was saying things like, “Wow, what a great opportunity you've got. I can see how you'd be a great fit with this opportunity”, which brought a lot of excitement and positivity to the conversation.

2. Approach

The second thing was about her approach. And what I mean by her approach is how she built on what was already there. She resisted the temptation to throw everything out and make a wholesale change.

As she was doing that, she focused on something that she really liked. We can always find something good. Nothing is 100 percent bad. She shared possible improvements by saying, “Wow. I really love the questions that you've got here. How would it be if you were to ask it this way? Or use these words?” So those were suggestions.

And along the same lines, it's about asking and not telling. Instead of saying, “you need to do X “ or “You should say it this way”, she would say things like, “How would this land with your audience?”

She also brought genuine excitement. One way to demonstrate this excitement is, as the other person's talking to you and a suggestion for them comes to mind, you could say, “Oh, wow, that's really good. I've got something that fits exactly your situation!” That's enthusiastic and it's genuine.

3. Intention

The third thing was about her intention. Frankly, your intention in a feedback conversation is the first thing that you need to focus on. But most of us tend to only realize its impact after we've gone through the whole conversation.

The intention that my middle daughter had was to help her sister make a more powerful impact. And she also had the intention of making the phone call a positive experience so that when her sister left the conversation, she would be more positive than when they began it and ready for the interview.


So, the next time you have an opportunity to give advice or share feedback, remember the following three things:

  • Your Tone: Resist the temptation to criticize, judge, or insist on a total do-over.
  • Your Approach: Make sure you're using a light touch. See how you can make the smallest possible change that's going to result in the biggest possible impact.
  • Your Intention: Remember that it's about them – their work and their learning experience. It's not about you. It's not about a chance to demonstrate how superior your knowledge and experience might be.

In the end, as Maya Angelou said, people won't necessarily remember what you said but they will remember how you made them feel.

When is the next time you might have an opportunity to give somebody advice and feedback? And how will you approach it?

I'd love to know so leave me a comment below.