How to give feedback that is both constructive AND kind
The Power of Feedback
Feedback is one of the best ways we can learn and grow.
Being in the position to give feedback suggests that we've given someone the opportunity to do something, or to try something. And that, to some extent at least, we've let them get on with it and not micro-managed them. This is a great starting point
The feedback we then provide on the work done or effort made, has the potential to elevate or decimate what comes next.
Silence is one option. And to some people, especially those who veer away from any form of confrontation (or what the fear might be confrontation) this is commonly the feedback of choice for both the person gaining and the person delivering the feedback. Depending on the mindset of the recipient, silence could signal approval, it could signal disapproval, it could signal a lack of interest. And again, depending on their mindset, it could cause relief or it could cause frustration. Silence is not the absence of an option. Saying nothing is still a choice you've made. Silence is a frequent form of feedback. And silence can be worsened if it's silence followed by the feedback giver (or not-giver) then re-doing whatever the work or effort was themselves and not telling the individual that they've done so.
Saying something for the sake of saying something
Saying something pointless, unrelated, or meaningless in the context, can be worse in terms of impact on the feedback seeker than silence. There are ways you can give feedback if you have none but have been asked for it "I'm not a specialist and so am not equipped to give you any useful feedback but I really enjoyed ...." etc. But feedback that is not relevant to the context can be harmful to the recipient. Just saying the nice stuff
This too is an option. And as long as there is some "nice stuff" to say, sharing genuine positives is an important part of giving effective feedback. But saying false niceties just because you don't want to be honest is being nice and not kind. And only saying the "nice" stuff when there are some signifiant growth or development points to make is unkind. Trashing it The "trashing it" form of feedback is more common than you'd hope - in part because sometimes it is not the intention of the feedback deliverer but they've not prepared how to say what they wanted to see changed or improved. And in their discomfort, feedback givers can either veer towards just the nice stuff or they can be too blunt or too critical or harsh in their delivery. While you could argue that this is kinder than some of the other options, as it is delivering information about improvements or developments needed, it can crush the recipient beyond them being able to see the useful parts of the information provided.
How to give useful feedback
If we're talking about feedback in terms of a Manager / Colleague relationship, asking how you want to receive feedback is one of the questions in my You-ser Manual (freebie linked) that I suggest Managers use with their teams.
But as for exactly what kind of information to give, I like to frame what I'm going to say around these 5 questions
What is really great / valuable / otherwise-not-there about the individual's contribution to the situation or project? This is a kind and genuine way of sharing positives about the person and their work / efforts
How has that added to / improved / deepened / changed the way you think about or approach whatever it was that they were working on? This is s further step of genuine positivity and shows where the person's work / effort will help or make positive changed for others
What would I like to see more of? This enables you to provide growth or development suggestions without starting from a negative stand point
How would that 'more' improve or change the work / result / value etc? This helps frame some expectations around what the effort in achieving the "more" will result in, in terms of progress, improvement, next steps, results for others etc
What support can I (or others) offer to help you achieve this? Show you are interested and invested in seeing the person achieve this next stage by sharing some of the responsibility for them getting there.
Give these a try next time you're struggling. I'd love to know how you get on!