5 Tips to Sharing Negative Feedback


Have you ever been around negative people that tend to be mean under the guise of just trying to “help” by giving “constructive criticism?” While there are times to share information that can be difficult in order to help others (negative feedback), criticism (usually intended to attack, blame or hurt others) is generally not helpful. So before you decide to share “constructive criticism” consider these 5 tips to effectively sharing negative feedback.

  1. Examine your intent. Consider why you want to give this feedback. Unless your intent is to help the other person or improve the situation, it may be best to keep your thoughts to yourself.
  2. Consider your relationship. Do you have an understanding or agreement with the other person that would allow you to share feedback without damaging the relationship? If you aren’t sure, ask the other person if they are open to feedback before sharing, otherwise he/she may just get defensive and it could make the situation worse. If they are open to feedback, asking is a sign of respect and they may be more likely to be open and ready to receive feedback. 
  3. Focus on technique. Find the right time when you can both be focused on the issue, and focus on one issue at a time. Stay calm, make eye contact, maintain an open body posture, and use “I” messages that focus on the behavior and not the person. In order to reduce defensiveness, it may also be helpful to use the “sandwich” technique, providing negative feedback between two positive messages when possible.
  4. Provide ideas, alternatives or solutions. Just telling someone that what they do is annoying isn’t helpful. Providing ideas or suggestions on how to improve the situation can help to promote problem solving.
  5. Be prepared for feedback. When we share feedback with others, sometimes they may have valid feedback for us. Keep calm, listen respectfully without interrupting, and show that you are trying to understand by rephrasing what they say to make sure that you received the message they were trying to convey.

While giving or receiving negative feedback can be difficult, when used as an effort to help someone or improve a situation, it can be a very beneficial tool to strengthen relationships. 


The Gottman Institute. (2017). Avoid the four horseman for better relationships. Retrieved from www.gottman.com

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