How to Get Effective Feedback: Don’t Ask for It

I recently discussed the importance of feedback with my students, and encouraged them to actively solicit feedback, as well as get used to giving constructive feedback. I told them they could practice their constructive feedback on me.

But now it seems like I may need to update my slides and talking points a bit, thanks to the latest Pinkcast from Dan Pink.

In this week’s post, titled: This is how big time performers get the feedback they need, Dan shares some of the work of Shane Parrish, author of the four-volume series titled: The Great Mental Models Project.

According to Shane, the best way to ask for feedback is to not ask for it.

Instead, a person should ask for advice. Here are three reasons why this may be more effective:

  • people love to give advice; it’s flattering
  • many people do not like being tough and critical, even when it is justified; asking for advice allows them to soften that toughness into something a bit softer and positive, making the person more comfortable
  • research seems to indicate that it does not really matter if feedback is positive or negative; what matters is that the feedback is actionable. By asking for advice, you are essentially asking for the action steps that will allow you to get better.

As Shane sums it up: Asking for feedback, creates a critic; asking for advice creates a partner.

Here is the video:

For the most part, I think the difference between asking for feedback vs. asking for advice is semantics, but I can see how just changing the word feedback to advice could make a difference for many people in terms of how they respond to such a request.

So I think I’ll keep my original class notes, and just add this as an alternative way to solicit feedback.

Although I’m worried what might happen when I ask my students for advice on how I can improve my teaching…

44 thoughts on “How to Get Effective Feedback: Don’t Ask for It

  1. First off, I commend you for allowing your students to provide feedback or advice. That, in itself, takes a certain amount of courage that I know many educators would not be comfortable with.

    I don’t always agree with Dan’s advice, but I think he’s on to something this time. People do like doling out advice. When we ask for it, the natural tendency is to express what one has done well and then tactfully offer suggestions about possible ways to make something better in a non-critical manner.

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  2. I like the asking for advice idea instead of feedback. It just seems more personal for both parties. Every business interaction these days is followed by a request for feedback in some form. It all starts to feel mechanical and rigged after a while. The wording is selective. The answer options are limited. I personally have the urge to mess with their heads or their data every time, but I don’t bother with them at all any more.

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  3. I think that asking for feedback has the same effect as telling a teen what to do, or asking them something repeatedly – they simply won’t do it. πŸ™‚

    I am sure that just asking for advice will soften the border between the teacher (you) and your students – thus allowing for a more relaxed atmosphere – always beneficial for learning. My kids always appreciated the teachers who took the time to listen to them, and carry a dialogue – no matter where that might lead (ha ha).

    I love this, very clever: “Asking for feedback, creates a critic; asking for advice creates a partner.”

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  4. This is hilarious only bc I literally just gave advice to a friend earlier today who started a new job a few weeks ago. I advised her to ask for feedback about her performance at work while she took over for a team lead who went on vacation…

    A couple things… I really like the part about asking for feedback creates critics while asking for advice creates partnership. That makes sense to me.

    However, I think there is a time and place for feedback – and that is in the workplace.

    I think the distinction and word “feedback” is also important to use instead of advice (esp when asking someone above you at work) bc you’re creating an open line of communication. This action, itself, illustrates how invested you are in your role, your ability to improve and take initiative. Often times it’s not the mistakes you’re judged by, but your ability to do better. And no one can do better without awareness. Feedback is key.

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  5. This is one of Dan’s best. I would definitely be more inclined to give advice and to be more thoughtful if asked for advice. Advice is more open ended versus feedback which I’d view as being more related to what someone else did or how they did it. Somehow advice just sounds better than feedback.

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  6. Semantics, but possibly with an important difference. I think if I was asking advice from my students, I’d make it a ‘we’ question. What are we doing well? What can we do to improve?

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  7. I think I like feedback more than advice even though advice is more action-oriented. It’s okay to hear some non-action-oriented comments. It seems like the person who gives advice would know more or know something better than the one who receives it. When doing it in a class, I may use the word suggestion which could be action-oriented. The students may feel free to give suggestions than advice.

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