Do you provide feedback that contributes to development?

Do you provide feedback that contributes to development?

Today’s post is a few lines about feedback. A word that may sound different to different people. Often people talk about positive and negative feedback, which for me at least is very ambiguous. Feedback is about giving feedback on something so that the recipient can improve. What if we receive negative feedback? What exactly is it? And how will it help anyone move forward. Similarly, ‘positive feedback’, if unclear, is positive but does not necessarily lead to development.

I would rather talk about how to create a good “feedback culture” – by using sorted feedback – as it is called in Communicology*. This is a condensed version, to give an understanding of how feedback can be incredibly rewarding if used in the right way. If you are curious to know more, you are more than welcome to contact me for a more detailed explanation of how you (and your company) can work with sorted feedback.

Sorted feedback

Sorted feedback means being able to give feedback without involving your own interpretations. It can be a challenge to be very constructive in such situations. If you start by recognizing the difference between the person and the behavior, that is, to fully assume that you should give feedback on what you actually saw or heard. Without mixing in the input that you get from your “inner track” (what you interpret by feeling, evaluating, your own chosen truths, etc.), you are some way off.

Instead of starting a sentence with “I feel…”, “I know that you…”, “you are…” etc., it becomes an interpretation of what you saw or heard (and a violation of the person you are addressing). Instead, try starting with “I saw…”, I heard…” to refer directly to the situation (again, pay attention to what you actually saw/heard. So you don’t e.g. say “I can see that you are nervous because you are sweating” (when the person may have been late and run all the way and is sweating). So refer to what you saw/heard.

Then you can add an expression such as “I think…”/”I intend…” or “I suggest…”. This will make a clear distinction between what you have seen and heard from the other person(s), as well as your opinion and your wish for improvement, or highlight what was good. Sorted feedback is good “I” and “You” sorting.

The next step is for the person giving the feedback to think about what your intention is in giving it. Once you have it clear, you can also think about whether you are in the right state (emotionally) to give. Think about how you act and speak when you are irritated versus when you are in balance. If you have to give feedback to someone, feedback that should lead to development, how does your state of mind need to be in order for your words to land in the best possible way with the counterpart?

And before you give feedback, find out what intention the person(s) had with their presentation or performance, and when it is appropriate for them to receive feedback from you. Often direct feedback can be useful, but it is not always appropriate, so check.


The boss tells Hannes in the elevator on the way up to the office in the morning, “I don’t think our cooperation during the last advertising project has worked well. You need to get your act together for the next project.” Hannes is surprised and doesn’t know what to say, so he remains silent. They step out of the elevator and Hannes’ happy state is gone. A common type of feedback is unfortunately this example. So what could have been done differently?

First, the manager could have checked with Hannes whether it was appropriate to get feedback on the cooperation in the elevator. Secondly, it is the manager’s opinion that it has not worked well, based on what?

What has not worked well and why (were there clearly stated frameworks for what applied to each person in terms of responsibilities, tasks, feedback in the process, etc)? For Hannes’ part, with a knowledge of sorted feedback, he would have been able to raise the desire for when he wanted feedback, he would also have been able to ask what the manager did not think had worked and what he would have wanted from Hannes for it to be a good collaboration.

The manager should have considered, before saying anything to Hannes in the elevator, what his purpose in giving the feedback was and, above all, checked his own condition. Was he in a good mood or perhaps a bit annoyed about something else, which then also manifested itself in the conversation with Hannes? The above example of feedback makes it difficult to believe that the manager wants to lift Hannes, that he wants to help make him an even better marketer. So what is your purpose in giving feedback?

Overall summary of sorted feedback

So the bottom line is that there is a big point in giving feedback, thinking more about how to give feedback rather than what to say. What are the states you find yourself in when you think about giving feedback? Are you annoyed, upset, etc. the feedback that comes out of your mouth is likely to be of no value to the recipient. Also agree when it is convenient for them to receive feedback from you.

Avoid interpreting by starting with expressions like “I feel…”. What have you actually heard and seen? And what is your suggestion for improvement? Or what exactly did you like about what the person did that you are now giving feedback on? So… avoid interpreting and be more precise in your feedback. Distinguish between person and behavior.

Think about what your intention is with the feedback and how to deliver it so that it provides maximum value to the recipient. When you have a functioning feedback culture, it is also possible for others to give feedback on your feedback. Without mixing in interpretations, communication is much ‘cleaner’ and there is less room for misunderstandings and perhaps feelings of pure personal attacks. When we stop interpreting and instead give feedback on what we have actually heard or seen, and take responsibility for the ” me and you” sorting, we will be well on our way to a more prosperous and, above all, more resourceful business environment.


– Reflect on how you give feedback. Both at work and at home. Also notice if it differs depending on the emotional state you are in.

– Once you have considered the above, see if your feedback is clear or if there is room for interpretation.

– Think about why you are giving feedback in a particular situation, what your intention is, and check with the person you are giving it to see if it is appropriate now or later.


* Communicology is an interdisciplinary meta-discipline. It is an area of expertise in change and development processes.

Definitions of Communicology
– The study of what is common in change and development processes.

– Studies of the structure and dynamics of communication and change when all experience and behavior is chosen, defined, described and understood as communication.

Want to know more? Contact me at [email protected] or visit any of these pages to find out more and to find training courses. Scandinavian Institute of Communicology or Communicology Center Hammarbysjöstad.


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