If you’ve ever had a manager or boss give you feedback that was vague, abstract, or ambiguous, you’re not alone. It is common for me to hear a client say some version of this statement, “I got through it so I guess it went ok.” How do you improve your communication if you don’t know what’s working and what isn’t? It is very challenging if not impossible to make improvements in the absences of concrete suggestions that are measurable. Generic feedback (like “good job”) gets us nowhere fast. When you request feedback, invite the person to be specific. The clearer you are in communicating your expectations, the more comfortable he or she will likely feel in providing direct feedback. End by thanking her for her candor, and that you will circle back and see how she thinks you’re implementing her suggestions. The value in doing this is three fold: 1) You’ve made it easier for the other person; 2) You’ve set expectations for how you like to receive information; 3) You’ve asserted your own growth. The next time you want clear feedback from a boss, colleague, or teacher, ask for it like this:

  1. I’d like specific feedback on my performance this quarter.
  2. Please tell me what is working well, and one or two suggestions I can improve upon.
  3. The more specific, the better. Details help me create goals for myself.
  4. Thank you for being direct. I’ll circle back and see how you think it’s going in the next 3 months. I appreciate your time.