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Dustin LindenSmith

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Seth Godin on how to give feedback

Seth Godin is a technology writer and analyst whose blog is very frequently filled with good ideas and suggestions. He often discusses usability, but he also focuses a lot on interpersonal relationships in a work setting, on coaching and feedback, and on cementing or enhancing relationships between customers and a company. In other words, he's a touchy-feely technogeek, which is a rare combination of traits and which he generally pulls off quite well. (To see him in action, this video of him giving a presentation to the staff at Google is really interesting.)

A recent article in his blog lays out his advice for how to give feedback in a professional and effective way. It's not a long read, but it's worth it. My synopsis of his rules is as follows (I think the first and third are most important):
The first rule of great feedback is this: No one cares about your opinion. What I want instead of your opinion is your analysis. For example, instead of saying, "I hate that font you used," you could say, "That font seems hard to read. Is there a way to do a quick test to see if a different font works better for our audience?"

The second rule? Say the right thing at the right time. For example, don't point out minor spelling errors in your review of a first draft; save that sort of copyediting for the last step and use your review as an opportunity to provide feedback that will have the most positive effect on the final outcome.

The third rule? If you have something nice to say, please say it.

If I haven't intimidated you with my other rules, here's the last one: Give me feedback, no matter what.
(link to article)
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