Negative feedback – is it effective?

To understand, how you should give critique to people in different situations you need to understand the psychology behind it. How to actually give feedback or critique to one another in a way that it actually motivate you to do better?

Negative feedback triggers the defense

When you think about the last moment you received negative feedback or critique, that didn’t make you feel good, you probably felt like “fight or run”. You get easily defensive in the situation or it’s easier for you to try to get away from the situation. In almost every case like this, people are taking distance from the person giving the feedback – based on the research of Paul Green from Harvard who researched data he collected from companies based on transparent feedback. If the relationship between the persons was voluntary – so they didn’t have to work with each other – the person receiving the negative feedback usually left this social network. And if they were working with each other, the person who received the negative feedback turned “behind the back” to other colleagues to confirm their feelings.

The problem is to assume that people want to do better when you tell them how bad they were at something. It actually eats the motivation and has a negative effect to the ego – you should think first, how the person receiving your feedback will react to that. Even when you put yourself into the situation, you might think that you wouldn’t feel bad about this critique or feedback, but it doesn’t mean that the other person wouldn’t mind. If you receive feedback that makes you feel threatened, you easily ignore it; you need to make the person feel safe and target the feedback individually to each person. After all, we are all individuals and we feel all situations differently, but everyone wants to have constructive feedback – and needs it sometimes.
Positive body language + negative feedback is better than negative body language + positive feedback

Paul Green says also in the research, that negative feedback puts the person receiving it in a battle with him/herself and the world around him/her – it makes two things to fight against each other: the need to feel valued and the need develop something better.

The best way to give feedback and actually make it effective for the person is to use it as guidance. We all want to be guided, learn how do to better and be more effective. So put together constructive critique and positive feedback. For example, if a person disappoints you with his/her skills in some specific task, guide him/her trough it by teaching. The best feedback is to give guidance, but it is also important to keep in mind how to give it. If you give good feedback with negative face and body language, it easily makes the person feel even worse. It is important to keep in mind that your body language and words should work together.

Critique and negative feedback is sometimes hard to give – it might feel that you will hurt someone’s feelings. But it is important part of the learning process, and that’s why it is important to address it effectively. Don’t forget to point out the good in the person and their work, to motivate and encourage them through feedback – sometimes one good word can make the day and give better results.

Selina Niemi


Related posts

Create a website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: