How to successfully share feedback with someone you love

Uhm, honey?

Yes, dear.

You know, uhm. Do you remember the other day, when you did xyz? (fill in a behaviour which drives you crazy but your special someone thinks nothing of it)

Yeah, why?

Well, uhm. I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that … cough …. uhm…”


Right, well …. (trying to find the words to share negative feedback). Uhm. Maybe we can talk about it later.

Has this ever happened to you? You’d like to tell someone you care for about a thing they do which drives you crazy. They have a habit which just does not work for them or for you?  They just don’t know. And you are struggling to find a way to tell them. You want to be honest, but you are afraid you might offend them. Or hurt their feelings.

So you don’t say anything at all.

When you don’t say anything, what is the consequence? Does the issue drive you more and more bonkers over time? Does your frustration build up? And then, when you can’t keep it to yourself anymore, it all comes out the wrong way. Sounds familiar? Well, then you are in the right place! I’m about to bust this topic wide open.

Want to know exactly how to give feedback, without damaging the integrity of your relationship?

Understand that you are not alone in this struggle. Giving constructive feedback to someone is very, very hard.  We humans are great at avoiding it for that reason. We’d rather put up with things, than have a conversation with another person about it. Alternatively, some of us prefer to remove ourselves from others, rather than try to help them (and ourselves) by letting them know about what they are doing. We do this to avoid conflict. And because we don’t want to hurt our loved one’s feelings.

Ironically, when we withhold feedback from those we love, we jeopardize the relationship.

Likely, the other person has things they’re don’t know how to share about you.  By not sharing openly how we feel, we stifle the opportunity to come to a better understanding with each other through honest dialogue. We hold back to not damage the relationship with our feedback, but by doing so, our relationship can’t grow to withstand time. This causes a conundrum. What to do?

The key is to give open, constructive feedback in a way which allows the other person to still feel safe and respected.

The key is to convey feedback in a way which makes it easier for the other person to accept. And you do this by sharing the feedback in a way which takes away the threat. Additionally, the other person is then more likely to take the feedback to heart. This increased the likelihood that they will act on it.

Find out how to give feedback as a gift, not as a threat.

To take a away the threat, the feedback giver needs to consider 5 aspects. When your message honours these 5 areas of a person, the feedback receiver will feel safe enough to really listen without feeling threatened and is less likely to become defensive. This technique was first articulated by David Rock in 2008.  The 5 aspects form the acronym SCARF.  It is not only for sharing feedback, but also for communicating with people as a whole. Want to know what they are? Check them out below:

When giving feedback, make sure these 5 areas of a person are not violated:

Status – Our relative importance to others. Ask yourself: “Am I valuing and respecting the other person with the way I am giving my feedback?”

Certainty – Our ability to predict the future. Ask yourself: “Does the other person know what to do next or what is expected of them in this situation?”

Autonomy – Our sense of control over events. Ask yourself: “Does the person have the feeling that they have a choice or control in the matter?”

Relatedness – Our sense of safety with others. Ask yourself: “Are you making sure that the other person’s sense of belonging is not jeopardized?”

Fairness – Our perception of fair exchanges. Ask yourself: “Are you giving the other person the credit they deserve and the same opportunities as others enjoy?”

One thing, which makes giving feedback to someone you love easier than someone you work with, is that you know them better. This helps you have a better idea of what the other person’s triggers are. And what is important to them. Let this information be your guide when you think about the best way to share what you want to say.

Stay away from stepping on the other person’s triggers. Instead, emphasize what they value.

At this point, it’s probably also apparent, that it is as important to know how to receive feedback as it is to give it. Hey, we’re not infallible either, right? Seeing feedback as a gift is key when it comes to receiving and giving it. CLICK HERE to read my previous blog which shows you how.

Before you share feedback, be sure to also check in to your state of mind. If you are agitated or annoyed, pick another day to share. Be as honest and vulnerable with the other person, sharing how their actions made you feel. Ask them for their opinion and perspective. Then make it clear what you need from them to move forward. Together, come to a common goal for the future. And decide who needs to do what to make that happen.

Going back to our opening dialogue, successful feedback could look something like this:

Uhm, honey?

Yes, dear.

You know, uhm. Do you remember the other day, when you did xyz? (fill in a behaviour which drives you crazy but your special someone thinks nothing of it)

Yeah, why?

Now that it is just the two of us, would this be a good time to talk about that? I would really like to share my thoughts on that situation and how it made me feel.

Sure, babe. What’s on your mind?

I have noticed that sometimes you do xyz, I am not sure if you realize this, but that can make me feel quite disappointed/sad/offended (fill in your emotion). I am curious to hear what your perspective is on this?

Well, that is not my intention. I only do xyz because I …

I appreciate that you shared your intention. You see it like this … (paraphrase what they said). Can I share with you how I see it? When you do xyz, it impacts me in this way … (elaborate). Our relationship is important to me, so I wanted to share that with you, so that it does not get in the way with us. What would really help me is if in the future you could do abc instead of xyz. What do you think of that?

Being human, and getting along with other humans, is not easy. What does help is to stay true to yourself. And that includes sharing your truth with others and being authentic in the process.  It means willing to do the work to stay connected with those you care about. And keeping the other person’s sense of status, sense of certainty, their autonomy, relatedness to others and a sense of fairness in mind.




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