Asking for feedback can feel painfully awkward. But there are ways to make it easier, both on you and the person you’re asking. Use these tips and scripts to ask for feedback.
It can be hard to hear negative feedback about ourselves. But too often, we avoid asking for feedback because it feels awkward or we’re nervous it will upset us. It’s normal to want to protect yourself from these types of hard conversations, but asking for honest feedback is actually one of the best ways to grow and improve. You’ll gain insights into your work style, leadership, and competencies.
When asking for feedback, follow a structure and best practices to make sure the conversation stays productive and you receive only useful feedback.
Asking for feedback can help you become a better leader, colleague, and employee. This is partially because you can apply the feedback to your work and make changes where you need to improve, but also because these types of conversations forge deeper connections. Whether it’s a LinkedIn message to a recruiter or a face-to-face conversation with your boss, asking for feedback:
Builds trust. Honest conversations where you openly receive feedback will help to build trust between you and the other person.
Improves communication. Asking for feedback shows that you’re open to challenging conversations, whatever they might be.
Boosts morale. If your team knows they can go to you with detailed feedback about your performance, they know they have a leader they can rely on.
Identifies opportunities for growth. Feedback helps you perform better and be more comfortable in your work environment.
Reduces misunderstandings. If you receive feedback about a specific question, you know exactly what to improve, leaving little room for misunderstandings.
In this article, we’ll specifically focus on asking for feedback. If you’re looking for ways to give feedback or incorporate feedback you’ve received, check out the following:
Providing virtual feedback like a pro: 3 tips from Eat Your Coffee
It’s normal to feel nervous when you’re asking someone else for feedback. But when done the right way, it gets easier to make the request. These tips will show you how to ask for feedback, so you can prepare in advance and ease any nerves.Free 1:1 meeting template
If the other party accepts your request for feedback, set some groundwork for them. Remind them that you’re asking because you genuinely want to know, and this is a safe space to be open and honest. Stating your “why” outright (for example, “I’m asking because I value your point of view”) will help the other person understand that in giving you feedback, they’re actually helping you.
Before you dive into the conversation, check in with yourself: What’s your emotional baseline right now? If you’re on edge or already feeling defensive, this is probably not the best time to ask for feedback.
At Asana, we use a framework by the Conscious Leadership Group (CLG) to determine if we’re open to feedback before we go forward with internal reviews. Before we get started, we check in: Are we above the line or below the line right now? Above the line means we’re open and ready to receive feedback, below the line is when we might be feeling defensive or guarded. Any time you’re below the line, reschedule your feedback session to another date.Read: 15 types of employee performance reviews (with templates and examples)
Your feedback questions will guide your feedback results, so asking the right ones is key. Actionable feedback is much more useful than vague opinions, which you can get if you ask specific, targeted questions. It also helps to avoid open-ended questions, such as: “What can I do better?”
For example, if you’re a leader and want to ask for feedback on your processes, you can ask questions like:
Are the creative briefs detailed enough that you can complete an individual request in one day?
Can you easily access all process guides in our project management software?
What steps are routinely missing from our new hire processes?
Because feedback sessions can make people feel vulnerable, it helps to do them face-to-face. Feedback is better served with a conversation, which is harder to convey in an async message or via email. When choosing a setting, prioritize doing it in person if possible, in a virtual on-camera call if not, and email or asynchronously as last resort.
Before you ask for feedback, make sure you go into it with an open mind. For starters, the person you’re asking might say no. They might be uncomfortable giving you feedback, especially if you’re in a leadership position. While this might be disappointing, accept their discomfort and look for feedback from someone else.
When making the request, stay open and engaged no matter their response. Maybe this will encourage them to say yes in the future, or maybe it will just show them that this is a comfortable workplace and they don’t need to feel any added pressure. If they do say yes, carry this open mind into the conversation, so you can be as objective as possible when you’re receiving their feedback.
If you don’t get a response right away when you initially ask for feedback, set a reminder to follow up. Most people are happy to help, or will at least share with you when they can’t. If they haven’t responded, it’s likely that they never saw your request or they forgot. Depending on your relationship to the other person, send a polite follow up anywhere from one to three weeks after your first ask.
When it comes to asking for feedback, it helps to know what you should say. Here are four common examples of who you can ask for feedback, and exactly what to say when you do.
Your colleagues are a wealth of knowledge about you and your work. Asking them for feedback can inform your work, build a sense of community and rapport between you, and help you be a better team member or leader. Here’s one way to ask your colleagues for feedback:
“Hi (name), I’m looking for feedback in regards to the product launch I led last quarter. I’d love to hear from someone like you who I already have a working relationship with. Are you available for us to meet next Friday to discuss?”
If you’re a people manager, you’re likely giving out feedback to others on a regular basis. But in order to effectively lead and guide your team, you first need to know how you can best help your direct reports. Asking them for feedback can be challenging—after all, you’re their boss. Because you hold a position of authority in this relationship, you need to emphasize that you won’t think differently of them if they have negative feedback. While you often want to hold feedback sessions in person, this is one instance where it might be helpful to have an anonymous, digital survey, so your direct reports can feel comfortable being honest. Or, give them the option between a digital form and an in-person chat. For example:
“Hi team, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts about my management style and how it impacts your work. To get your feedback, I built an anonymous form that asks a few, simple questions about me as a people manager. This is just so I can identify opportunities for growth to better support you and your work, so please feel free to be honest and open here. If you have any questions or you’d prefer to schedule this as a face-to-face conversation, please let me know.”
Your customers have unique insights into how you operate and your externally-facing work. Their input can inform product development, especially if you use the Agile methodology. In Agile projects, customer feedback is transformed into user stories, which then inform Agile work sprints. When done correctly, Agile helps your team create product features and updates directly in line with customer needs and interests. But you can also ask customers informally when they check out after buying a product or through routine surveys. If you reach out to them directly, try saying something like:
“Hi (your company name) customer! We’re tweaking things here at (company name) to make sure we’re providing you with the best possible service. Do you have a few minutes to hop on a quick call and give me feedback? I’d love to know how I’ve had an impact on you, and how I can do even more to help.”Read: Asana for Agile and Scrum
If you have to ask for feedback in an email, you’re going to want to make your ask very clear and specific. When you’re not in person, it’s easier for feedback to get lost in translation. The more specific you are, the less likely there is to be a misunderstanding later on. But using email can be a helpful way to ask for feedback from people who you know are too busy to have a more formal meeting with you. For example:
“Hi (name), I’m looking for feedback about the code I submitted last week. Are you available to answer a few questions if I send them via email?”
Once you ask for feedback, you should be ready to receive it. The best way to acknowledge and receive whatever feedback you get is to be objective. Remember that this isn’t a negative process, even if the feedback is less positive than you expected. Keep your eye on the end goal: that all feedback helps you to do better and improve.
To stay objective, try to stay in the moment by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness helps you stay present, so instead of worrying about what you did in the past to receive negative feedback, you can focus on what’s happening now—which is the only thing you can control. Also, during the feedback session, use active listening to make sure you’re hearing all parts of the conversation. It’s normal to tune into higher impact or emotionally charged statements, but the underlying information is what will help you the most.
The feedback process includes asking for, receiving, and giving feedback. When you’re on the giving end, here are a few ways to make sure you provide valuable feedback:
Make it actionable
Keep it private
Notify the other party in advance before the conversation
Like any challenging conversation, asking for feedback gets a little easier every time you do it. Set up recurring meetings so you can continue to practice asking for and receiving feedback—knowing that every time you do, you’re becoming a better team member, leader, and employee.
Asking for feedback is easier when you’re already collaborating with others. To stay on task and in touch with every member of your team, use a project management platform to plan 1:1 meetings and coordinate projects.Free 1:1 meeting template