How to Give Tough Feedback to a Writer
Well-delivered critiques from trusted experts are invaluable to a writer looking to progress. If I think back on how I improved my writing skills over the years, constructive feedback was a major influencer. On the other hand, irrelevant or poorly delivered feedback has led to some of the worst experiences in my professional career. Knowing how to effectively deliver tough feedback is a fundamental skill that every manager must work on.
When I started at Wix, I had difficulty adapting my writing to the Wix voice. The editor I was working with made it clear to me that I was missing the mark. He helped me adjust my writing voice by asking questions about my work. He never rewrote the text for me but rather helped me get there myself. As a manager, I try to offer the writers I manage feedback they can grow from.
Here are 5 tips I have learned about how to give difficult feedback:
Set a goal Before you speak with the writer, decide what you want to achieve. This goal should not be abstract like, “The writing should be more polished.” Instead, set a goal you can measure such as, “Make sure there are no typos before you submit your work.” During the meeting, stay focused on the goal. If you have multiple goals set for one meeting, it may be a sign that you need to offer feedback more regularly.
Choose the right time & place Tough feedback should never be given in a public forum. Whenever possible, important feedback should be given in person. Make sure there is enough time and you are in a setting where you are both comfortable. Wix experienced massive growth in the last few years and our offices are packed. It isn’t uncommon to see meetings in a kitchen or hallway. When it comes to feedback, the hallway isn’t an option. It is important to make an effort to find a quiet space.
Cut to the point One of the best pieces of advice I was given at Wix in regards to feedback was to “Get ugly early.” Waiting with tough feedback creates unnecessary drama and wastes precious time. Be clear and direct early on in the conversation. Once it is out in the open it is easier to discuss and address it. To be perfectly honest, the first draft of this article was rejected by my editor. Since it was early on in the process and the issues were clearly laid out, it was easier to let go and start afresh.
Be sincere and show your intentions When you are delivering feedback, remind yourself that you want to help the writer as well as the company or client you work for. This should always be at the front of your mind and will guide you when you’re faced with difficult reactions. When you show a colleague you really do care about them and their professional development, they’ll have an easier time hearing tough feedback.
Offer your assistance Ideally, after you offer feedback, the writer will take a second look at their work and try to improve it. Make it clear that you are there to answer any questions or review writing when they’re ready. Be available, so you can continue to help them throughout the process, but also give them space to do it on their own.
Before you try to help another writer with their work, take a moment to reflect on your own experiences. What feedback helped you get where you are now and how did it change you as a writer? How did it ultimately impact your work and in turn improve the experience of your readers? We’d love to hear about it.
Being on the receiving end of feedback can also be challenging. Check out How to Receive Feedback - with style...
Nedenah Elkayam, UX Team Lead at Wix