The secret to giving great feedback

The Secret to Giving Great Feedback

Opening Questions:

Have you heard of the sandwich technique for giving feedback and what do you think about it?

Can you think of any times (besides work) when you give or receive feedback?

When people receive feedback, they sometimes become defensive. Can this be prevented?

What do Gallup surveys do?

We are going to watch the first 6 minutes of a Ted talk by LeeAnn Renninger

Using Ted talks and video are a fantastic way to improve your listening comprehension, practice listening to different English accentsvocabulary building for the real world and improving your pronunciation.

Here’s how to use video effectively.

1. Go through the English language transcript of the video and identify the difficult vocabulary.

  • Look up the new words and understand them in context.

2. Listen to a short 5 minute video (or part of a video) just in English with no subtitles. Try to understand as much as possible.

  • At the end, try to mark your listening comprehension with a %. Did you understand 60%, or 80% or the talk?

3. Listen again to just the first 5 minutes but with English subtitles. Listen and read to the speakers words and focus on the global meaning, their way of speaking and pronunciation.

  • At the end, try to mark your listening comprehension with a %. How much did your listening comprehension improve from the first listening?
  • Try to identify where you had difficulties from the fist listening. Was is the speed, the pronunciation, the accent or the vocabulary?


By following the steps above you will improve your listening comprehension on the 1st listening. The objective is to close the gap between 1st and 2nd listening. 

1. Vocabulary Questions

Before we watch the video, let’s discuss some of the vocabulary.

What sort of things can you put in a toolbox?

How bad it pretty bad? And do you know other modifiers that have a similar meaning?

Name 2 things that are dismal in the world right now?

The speaker uses the word brain-friendly, what do you think it means?

When talking about mobiles, are you in the android camp or the iOS camp?

Name 1 thing that you figured out this week?

What is the biggest threat to the environment?

What happens if you sit on a wonky chair?

What is another word for pace, and what is a pacing tool?

In marketing what is the buy-in?

If I blur an image, what am I doing?

Should is a model verb we use when giving advise, therefore shouldn’t be is the contracted form of………….. ?

What are some benefits of sticking with (to stick with) regular physical exercise?

If you can grasp a concept what are you doing?

Nome some thing that people crave?


amygdala = The amygdala (Latin, corpus amygdaloideum) is an almond-shape set of neurons located deep in the brain’s medial temporal lobe. Shown to play a key role in the processsing of emotions, the amygdala forms part of the limbic system

2. Watch the first 6 minutes of the TED talk

Try to write down the four-part formula and what each one means.

3. Comprehension Questions

What is the problem with typical feedback?

What do only 26% of employees rage about feedback?

What are the 4 parts of LeeAnn Renninger’s formula?

4. Watch the video again with English subtitles from 0:41 to 1:47

Watch to find the answers to these questions:

  1. What two types of feedback givers are there?
  2. The speaker did some research to improve how people give feedback. How did she find people for her research?
  3. When people receive feedback, how does the amygdala (the part of the brain) respond?

You can select the subtitles by clicking on the caption controls  on the bottom of the screen below.

Listening for detail: Feedback Formula numbers 1 & 2

Watch the video again from 1:47 to 2:27

Decide if these statements are true or false:

  1. The first part of the feedback formula starts with a yes/no question. 
  2. At this stage, you only have to be short.
  3. This stage tricks the brain into feeling happy.
  4. People who are receiving feedback can decide how to answer the question. 

Listening for detail: Feedback Formula numbers 3 & 4

Watch the video again from 2:27 to 3:22

Watch to find the answers to these questions:

  1. What is a blur word? Can you give an example?
  2. How is a data point different from a blur word?
  3. Does this advise only apply to negative feedback? 

5. Using the vocabulary in different contexts

What are the best skills in your toolbox?

What is the opposite of pretty bad

What are some opposites of dismal

Can you think of a brain-friendly activity?

Do you like camping or glamping?

What did Newton figure out?

Name 3 different threats we need to pay attention to? 

Do you own anything that is a little wonky

What is your pace when running 5km? 

Name something that you bought into recently? (buy-in). Perhaps a TV series, a website subscription etc.. 

What does the expression “to blur the lines” mean?

Modal Verbs:

Use should in a sentence. 

Use must in a sentence.

Use have to in a sentence. 

Describe something that you have stuck with for a long time? (to stick with) 

Name something physical and conceptual that you can grasp?

 Put these verbs in order or intensity: want, desire, need, crave

6. Summerising exercise

Listen again to these sections and try to summerize in your own words the main ideas. 

Starting from Timecode 4:10, what is the final thing she describes?

7. Discussion

What do you think about asking for feedback or “pulling feedback”?

In what areas or subjects are you are continual learner? 

Video Transcript

If you look at a carpenter, they have a toolbox; a dentist, they have their drills. In our era and the type of work most of us are doing, the tool we most need is actually centered around being able to give and receive feedback well.

Humans have been talking about feedback for centuries. In fact, Confucius, way back in 500 BC, talked about how important it is to be able to say difficult messages well.

But to be honest, we’re still pretty bad at it. In fact, a recent Gallup survey found that only 26 percent of employees strongly agree that the feedback they get actually improves their work. Those numbers are pretty dismal.

Timecode 0:41

So what’s going on? The way that most people give their feedback actually isn’t brain-friendly. People fall into one of two camps. Either they’re of the camp that is very indirect and soft and the brain doesn’t even recognize that feedback is being given or it’s just simply confused, or they fall into the other camp of being too direct, and with that, it tips the other person into the land of being defensive. 

There’s this part of the brain called the amygdala, and it’s scanning at all times to figure out whether the message has a social threat attached to it. With that, we’ll move forward to defensiveness, we’ll move backwards in retreat, and what happens is the feedback giver then starts to disregulate as well. They add more ums and uhs and justifications, and the whole thing gets wonky really fast. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. I and my team have spent many years going into different companies and asking who here is a great feedback giver. Anybody who’s named again and again, we actually bring into our labs to see what they’re doing differently. And what we find is that there’s a four-part formula that you can use to say any difficult message well. 

Timecode: 1:47

OK, are you ready for it? Here we go. The first part of the formula is what we call the micro-yes. Great feedback givers begin their feedback by asking a question that is short but important. It lets the brain know that feedback is actually coming. It would be something, for example, like, “Do you have five minutes to talk about how that last conversation went” or “I have some ideas for how we can improve things. Can I share them with you?” This micro-yes question does two things for you. First of all, it’s going to be a pacing tool. It lets the other person know that feedback is about to be given. And the second thing it does is it creates a moment of buy-in. I can say yes or no to that yes or no question. And with that, I get a feeling of autonomy. 

The second part of the feedback formula is going to be giving your data point. Here, you should name specifically what you saw or heard, and cut out any words that aren’t objective. There’s a concept we call blur words. A blur word is something that can mean different things to different people. Blur words are not specific. So for example, if I say “You shouldn’t be so defensive” or “You could be more proactive.” What we see great feedback givers doing differently is they’ll convert their blur words into actual data points. So for example, instead of saying, “You aren’t reliable,” we would say, “You said you’d get that email to me by 11, and I still don’t have it yet.” Specificity is also important when it comes to positive feedback, and the reason for that is that we want to be able to specify exactly what we want the other person to increase or diminish. And if we stick with blur words, they actually won’t have any clue particularly what to do going forward to keep repeating that behavior. 

Timecode 3:22

The third part of the feedback formula is the impact statement. Here, you name exactly how that data point impacted you. So, for example, I might say, “Because I didn’t get the message, I was blocked on my work and couldn’t move forward” or “I really liked how you added those stories, because it helped me grasp the concepts faster.” It gives you a sense of purpose and meaning and logic between the points, which is something the brain really craves

The fourth part of the feedback formula is a question. Great feedback givers wrap their feedback message with a question. They’ll ask something like, “Well, how do you see it?” Or “This is what I’m thinking we should do, but what are your thoughts on it?” What it does is it creates commitment rather than just compliance. It makes the conversation no longer be a monologue, but rather becomes a joint problem-solving situation.

Timecode 4:10

But there’s one last thing. Great feedback givers not only can say messages well, but also, they ask for feedback regularly. In fact, our research on perceived leadership shows that you shouldn’t wait for feedback to be given to you — what we call push feedback — but rather, you should actively ask for feedback, what we call pulling feedback. Pulling feedback establishes you as a continual learner and puts the power in your hands. The most challenging situations are actually the ones that call for the most skillful feedback. But it doesn’t have to be hard. 

Now that you know this four-part formula, you can mix and match it to make it work for any difficult conversation.


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