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IT Toolbox: The Power of Good Feedback

The Sharp Ninja
・3 min read

How do you become a better patient? You learn to give feedback. Not just complaining about the pain, but forcing myself to be patient with their process and giving them the info they need when they ask for it. It's great to give details, but if they come at the wrong point in the process then they may not be accepted in the manner you expect. Yes, being an ER patient is a process, just like navigating the bureaucracy at the DMV. Being aware of how and when to give feedback is the first step to being listened to.

Programmers are a very interesting study in contradiction. We take inherently chaotic events and data and apply them to a process. But most programmers have difficulty in organizing their own needs and desires for their careers and wind up being very poor at giving the kind of feedback that allows them to achieve their career goals.

The first part of giving feedback is learning how to listen to the questions being ask. Not only do you have to think about hidden meanings, but believe it or not most questions are not puzzles to be solved, but a simple request for a simple answer. If you overload the questioner with data, they will not process it all because they may not be in the same context of the conversation that you are. It's very important that you learn to interpret the level of detail that the audience of your answer is expecting and that you respond in kind.

Most (certainly not all) managers are practiced in this skill. Their whole job revolves around collecting and giving feedback all day long. Programmers are often intimidated by management for this exact reason. Programmers are usually acutely aware of their deficiencies in this area and become defensive the instant that a smooth talking manager comes near them. Programmers must learn to use these conversations to their advantage by giving good feedback.

How do you give good feedback? Here are four easy steps:

  1. Be concise. Don't leave out important details, but when you go off topic you just lose your audience.
  2. Be honest. Most people are able to spot lies before the first syllable is uttered. If the truth is inconvenient, limit your exposure and use it as an opportunity to shape the direction of the conversation towards a solution.
  3. Be attentive. If you are not able to focus on the conversation then postpone it. If you want people to listen to you, you have to listen to them, too.
  4. Be authoritative. The confidence you have in your argument is one of the biggest factors in being listened too. DO NOT CONFUSE BRAVADO WITH CONFIDENCE!

Communication is vital to one's life and career. You must participate in the conversations around your circumstances if you expect to have any control on the outcome.

The doc just left. The toe is still broken from the original injury, but I didn't break it any further today. I'm in and out in an hour and a half. Did my feedback help? I see no evidence that it hurt!

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These articles are owned and copyrighted by IT Toolbox as I was a paid writer in their employ. Please do not copy them. If you cite them, please cite the originals.

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