I recently learned some trivia about the 1976 neo-noir psychological thriller, Taxi Driver. In the movie, Robert De Niro, stars as Travis Bickle a mentally unstable veteran, working as a nighttime taxi driver. The line, “You talkin’ to me?” ranks number eight in The Hollywood Reporter’s list of 100 favourite movie quotes of all time. The film’s director, Martin Scorsese, shared that Robert De Niro made up the entire sequence on the spot where his character talks to himself and asks that famous question.

The movie quote reminds me of how people feel when they either think about giving or receiving feedback. Both scenarios can trigger emotional responses of fear, anxiety, and discomfort for the giver and receiver.

Why give feedback in the first place?
Not everyone has the innate gift of being diplomatic, genuine and calm when giving feedback. The good news is that it is a skill you can learn with patience, practice and experience. By getting comfortable giving feedback, you make it easier to address expectations and boundaries in relationships.

When done well, the benefits of feedback help to:

  • demonstrate care, involvement and commitment to the relationship;
  • steer or redirect actions and provide clarity about the bigger picture;
  • define what are successful behaviours;
  • increase self-awareness;
  • reduce communication misunderstandings and false assumptions.

Got the feedback jitters?
Here’s a tip to help you lose the feedback jitters and do a better job of delivering an important message — remember the why! When you feel nervous or unsure about giving feedback, focus on the core purpose or reason for doing it — you want to help the person be successful. Feedback is most beneficial if provided within 24 hours and no later than 1 week from when you observed the behaviour that warrants feedback. Connecting with your intention of being helpful to the other person and wanting their success will make it easier to deliver your message. Start your conversation by stating that you’re giving feedback to help them be successful. Doing so will kick your feedback discussion off on the right foot.

When is it appropriate to give feedback?
When giving feedback of any kind, ask yourself:

  • Will the feedback be helpful or will it cause harm? (Consider your intentions for giving feedback.)
  • Is now the best time to give feedback? (Observe whether the person is distracted or upset and if others might overhear your conversation)
  • Does what you wish to share need to be said by you? Are you the appropriate person to be giving the feedback?

It is respectful and necessary to tell the truth through candid feedback that is compassionately delivered. Whether in the workplace or in a personal situation, people need feedback to help them to learn and grow. Without feedback, it is hard to really know where you stand in your career or in a personal relationship.

Check out Part 2 of Giving Feedback with Confidence for tips on managing emotional reactions.