How To Positively Deliver Negative Feedback.

“Intention is the single most powerful and transformative ingredient in dialogue.”
-Oren Jay Sofer, author of “Say What You Mean, a Mindful Approach to Nonviolent Communication.”

Who doesn’t feel uncomfortable sharing shortcomings to help another improve their performance? How many people like communicating their dislikes in a personal relationship?

What if you could embrace a simple formula to deliver negative feedback in a way that’s effective and leaves both people feeling heard and valued?

You can with an awareness of these 3 principles:

Think about what it feels like to be on the receiving end of negative feedback. It can be like getting a shot at the doctor’s office when you’re a kid. You enter a sterile and unfriendly environment with the antiseptic smell burning your nostrils. The nurse comes at you with a sharp needle you know is going to hurt. She tries to convince you it’ll be just a pinch, something all the big boys and girls can handle. You pull away in defensiveness. The nurse retaliates with a stern glare and a firmer grip on your arm. Once it’s over, you walk out defeated and determined never to listen to a nurse again.


You can deliver negative feedback so that it’s received constructively. Begin by sharing a genuine positive intention to create an atmosphere for dialogue rather than debate. This action sets the tone and the trust level for the conversation. If you feel comfortable doing so, you can also reveal your shortcomings related to the area of feedback or your communication style. This honesty allows the other person to see you as a human being rather than a judge and jury.

Here are some examples:

My intention is to learn more about your approach to meeting deadlines. I’ve had trouble in this area in the past, so I understand how things can fall by the wayside.

My goal is to understand how you handle disappointment. I know I don’t always take the time to have these types of conversations but I think it would be good to know what we expect from each other.


Next, you offer the feedback directly but messaged as a perspective rather than absolute truth. When you share feedback as a point of view, you demonstrate respect for differing opinions. You also create an environment for discussion where growth, learning and change can occur. Even though organizations may have strict performance standards, delivering the feedback as a perspective invites conversation and diffuses the natural tendency of defensive reactions. You can start with phrases such as:

From my perspective…
The way your peers see it…
According to the review…


Finally, to ensure commitment to a constructive outcome, ask the other person for suggestions on what they think needs to happen to move forward successfully. Instead of imposing the next steps, you allow the other person to take part in the creation of a solution. When someone is involved in the creative process they also take ownership of it and are more inclined to invest in its success.

What can you do differently moving forward?
What are some suggestions to avoid a similar situation in the future?

Using this positive-negative feedback approach, I can re-imagine the childhood doctor’s visit going something like this.

The nurse tells you she wants to help you stay healthy for your gymnastics team. She reveals that as a kid she never liked shots either. She admits it will hurt for a few moments but the shot also has the necessary germ-fighters to keep your body in tip-top gymnastic shape. Then she asks what you think is best to do.

Some kids would choose to walk away, just as some adults would. Some people would rather avoid temporary discomfort than accept it for a more positive long-term outcome. On the other hand, this could be the day a kid realizes they never liked gymnastics that much after all and that it’s time for a change.

The lesson here is that you can’t control people’s responses to negative feedback. You can only do your best to present it positively for their ultimate gain.

You don’t have to be uncomfortable giving negative feedback. Instead, you can approach it with a positive intention, an open perspective and allowing another to participate in the creation of their destiny by their choices.

What do you do if you are on the receiving end of negative feedback? That will be the subject of next week’s newsletter!

Action Tips: Prepare yourself ahead of time for delivering negative feedback by identifying words and phrases that feel comfortable for you.

  1. What positive intentions are you comfortable sharing with another person?
  2. What phrases feel most natural to qualify statements as perspectives rather than absolute truths?
  3. How can you remember to pause for participation rather than immediately tell another person what they need to do?

Thanks for reading. Until next week, 

Jo-Aynne von Born, Certified Professional Coach

Success accelerator. Authenticity instigator. Creativity engineer. Mindset shifter. Challenge buster. Trusted partner.

(Reprinted from my free Authentic Success newsletter. Subscribe here.)


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