How Appetizing is Your Feedback

Ed Sykes

Recently, I was watching a rerun of the successful television show, The Cosby Show. The patriarch of this professional family He is a doctor and his wife is a lawyer. played by Bill Cosby, was just told by his college-bound daughter that the boyfriend she brought home to meet him was really her fiancé. He was disappointed with the news. Disappointed not in the young man or what he did he was a “maintenance engineer”, but in the way he was told about this engagement.

Mr. Cosby said that the way he was told was like taking a sizzling, delicious, robust T-bone steak and serving it on a garbage can lid. It’s not too appetizing. You know the steak is delicious, but would we really want to eat it It’s not too appetizing.

I ask you, when you give feedback, do you make it appetizing for the receiver of the feedback Or do you make your “steak” indigestible We can be giving great feedback everyday and, unless we make it appetizing so others will digest it, our feedback will not acted upon.

The following are ten techniques for making your feedback more appetizing:

1. Prep for a Great Meal

Just as you would prep for a great meal, you should prepare to give feedback. Mentally go over the following:

  • Is the feedback important

  • What do I want to accomplish with the feedback

  • Who are the persons I will be giving the feedback to

  • How will they take my feedback How can I make my feedback more appetizing for them

  • How have they taken feedback in the past

  • Is there someone better I can enlist to “serve” the feedback

Just as you would expect to produce a great meal, mentally expect to have a great feedback session. Take time to visualize the positive interaction and results by giving the feedback. Know that you will improve the lives of those you give feedback to and how you will accomplish your goals.

Note: Remember, all feedback, with the goal of improving another individual or situation, is positive. It’s when we are not receiving or giving constant feedback that situations turn negative due to misunderstandings.

2. Timing Is All Important for a Great Meal

Make sure you are giving the feedback when it is needed. Giving feedback too long after there is need will dilute the “hunger” for the feedback. Giving feedback too early when there is no “hunger” for the feedback will allow your meal, your feedback, to go to waste and not have the impact on behavior that you need.

3. Quality Ingredients Are the Start of a Great Meal

Be consistent every time you give feedback so that the person receiving the feedback will know what to expect. Be fair in your feedback. Also focus your feedback on actions observed, not the person. Or, as I say, “point to point, not person to person.” Use “I” statements.

  • Be direct in your feedback. Just like you wouldn’t want to wait forever to get to the main course, you wouldn’t want to wait forever for someone to tell you why they are giving you feedback.

  • Set positive expectations so they want to eat. Instead of saying the following:

    “Mike, come by my office today at 3 p.m. so that I can give you some “constructive criticism.” Mike is thinking he had rather be having a root canal.

    Say the following:

    “Mike, come by office at 3 p.m. today. I have some ideas on how to make your job easier or some other benefit and would value your feedback.”

    Remember, in order for the receiver of the feedback to be hungry for the information, apply the “What’s In It For Me” WIIFM technique. Ask yourself, “What is the benefit to the receiver of my feedback”

  • Master Our Utensils. Master our utensils, the words we use, when serving the meal. For example, if you noticed someone unfocused in their conversation, you might say the following:

    “Sue, slow down! You are rambling too much.”

    Instead say the following:

    “Sue, you sure have a lot on your mind. Let’s concentrate on top the three points you want to discuss.”

    Use positive words to create a great meal.

4. Ask for Feedback on the Meal

Encourage the other person to give you feedback on your feedback. This may clear up any misunderstandings. Also, it shows that you value the other person’s opinion.

5. End the Meal on a Positive Note

Appreciate their time, their manners, and overall demeanor to the feedback. Let them know that you appreciate the efforts they are making. Also tell them that you expect that there will be a positive outcome from the feedback session. Also, let them know that you are there to help them succeed.

Apply these techniques at work, home or in the community to ensure that your feedback is more appetizing to others.

Bon appétit!

Copyright © 2004 Ed Sykes. All rights reserved
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About The Author

Ed Sykes is a professional speaker, author, and success coach in the areas of leadership, motivation, stress management, customer service, and team building. You can e-mail him at, or call him at 757 427-7032. Goto his web site,, and signup for the newsletter, OnPoint, and receive the free ebook, "Empowerment and Stress Secrets for the Busy Professional."

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