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General vs Specific Feedback

Updated: Oct 16, 2019

When I was a young and upcoming professional (insert as an alternative - borderline pretentious know-it-all), I attended a workshop on communications.

At one point during proceedings the presenter made an amazing statement. She told us that 95% of human reactions were “child-like”.

I immediately piped up saying “I don’t think that’s true”. To which she replied “Case in point”.

Whilst I was embarrassed, humiliated and a little angry I did manage to then sit back, shut up and listen.

She went on to say that from a neurological point of view, our brain contains a structure (the amygdala) that is designed to respond swiftly to a threat, also known as the fight or flight response. While at one time this was designed to protect us, it can interfere with our functioning in the modern world where threats are often more subtle in nature.

So back to my humiliation. Shortly after the presentation (circa 15 years!), I realised that I had received feedback and it was up to me to decide what to do with it. I could dismiss the information I had received out of hand (like a petulant child) or analyse it and determine if it was relevant, appropriate and useful in improving myself.

In Leadership and Management, one of the most powerful ways to check your own performance and improve is to obtain feedback from others – colleagues, clients, your manager, your work team and people in your network.

You usually have to ask for feedback; when you ask for feedback people see you as genuinely wanting to better your performance and potential. And when you ask for feedback it prepares you and helps avoid an ‘amygdala hijack’.

Feedback that you ask for can be general in nature or specific to a task or outcome you have undertaken. Some ways to ask for feedback in these two areas are:-

General Feedback Questions

  • What is one of my strongest skills that I should utilise more?

  • What is the one skill that I should focus on developing further?

  • How can I interact better with our customers?

  • What are some of my career options here and paths to get there within the next 5-years?

  • How can I take my game to the next level within the next 6-months?

  • How did I perform last month, during our end of quarter rush?

  • What skills are important for me to learn this year?

Specific Feedback Questions

  • Can you see another or better way to channel my efforts for this task?

  • Do you know of any other strategies I could use to achieve this goal?

  • This is what I had intended; could I have reached that outcome more effectively?

  • What could I do differently to be more effective in this area?

  • What other styles of doing this do you think I could usefully explore?

Some feedback is bound to be accurate and useful, some of it less so.

Some feedback can sound like criticism especially when delivered unskilfully.

Before dismissing feedback, think it through and see what you can learn. Make sure you listen and understand the feedback and separate any emotional elements from the facts.

To make sure you understand it, ask questions like: -

  • If I understand correctly …?

  • When you said X, could you give me an example of that so I can completely understand what you mean?

  • You said the report was incomplete; what could I add to make it more complete?

Thank the person for providing the information and remember you’re not obliged to take the advice.


elevateB provide specialist and highly sought-after business and management programs aimed at providing individuals and businesses with the knowledge, skills and tools to make a positive impact in their job roles, careers and personal lives. The information in this article is from the Leadership and Management Program. For more information on elevateB and our programs please visit our website by clicking here for more information and to get started today.


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