In social psychology, feedback is described as a specific and behaviour related response. There are two different kinds of feedback: Positive feedback, which covers the strengths of a person, is pointing out satisfying to extraordinary performance. Whereas constructive feedback is about the behaviour that is not satisfying and should be improved.

Why is it important to learn and know how to give and receive feedback? Well, it's one of the most essential characteristics a manager, employer but also in sports: a coach, trainer and athlete has to have in order to enable a best possible work relationship.

The purpose of feedback is to give the receiver of feedback the chance to become aware of his or her behaviour and how it appears to others. Ideally, it should enable a person to improve one’s behaviour, skill or performance. Feedback should be given as early as possible because it reflects the current behaviour of a person. Notice, feedback has an expiration date.

Feedback is a way of communication, probably it is the most difficult and challenging kind of communication. There is always an interaction between the giver and the receiver: During this process, the giver and receiver are both revealing personal information e.g. through non-verbal communication. Being aware of this can be the key to successful feedback.


The answer to this question is that human beings have the belonging to be accepted, respected and loved how they are right now. People often feel attacked due to feedback. This is because feedback rules are often not applied. If a receiver feels attacked, he or she will most likely judge the feedback as wrong to protect one’s self-esteem. The response to feedback depends on the receiver’s baseline of self-esteem, how far he or she gets kicked off the personal baseline and how fast a person will recover.

Nevertheless, the receiver is responsible what to let in and what to ignore during a feedback process.


  • Is feedback wanted?
  • Is feedback helpful in this situation?

Before giving feedback ask the receiver what he or she thinks about his or her performance.

  • Give feedback as soon as possible, ideally right after a performance and start with positive feedback.
  • Feedback should always be goal-oriented.
  • Give feedback in a personal setting (four-eyes principle). 
  • Pay attention to your non-verbal communication like your voice and body language.
  • Use I-statements (e.g. "I think it could work better if you tried to be more patient" instead of: "You are not patient enough").
  • Keep it short (max. 1-2 topics/ issues).
  • Firstly, communicate your perception of the person and don’t judge it.
  • Secondly, talk about the emotions you feel during the person’s behaviour.
  • Thirdly, propose specific improvements/ suggestions/ wishes.
  • Start and end feedback with a positive statement or impression*
  • End the feedback process by asking the receiver what he or she thinks about the feedback.

* (e.g. use the sandwich theory: Wrap constructive feedback around positive feedback)

They key is to tell a person which impression somebody receives without hurting or attacking the person. Also, it is important that feedback is an objective statement and not a personal interpretation, which is sometimes hard to keep apart.


  • Judging, insults, accusation, irony, trying to change somebody.
  • Analyzing or lecturing a person, threatening or moralizing somebody.
  • Giving feedback in public, indirect feedback through non-verbal communication.
  • No specific advice for improvements, generalizing a behaviour to all situations by using phrases like always or never.

Using the following advice for receiving feedback will make it easier to accept and make use of feedback.


  • Let the person giving feedback finish.
  • Just listen to the feedback and don’t defend yourself.
  • If necessary, ask questions to clarify the feedback.
  • Separate the who (feedback giver) from the what (feedback).
  • Be thankful.

The receiver has a passive role and therefore often feels helpless. Feedback should only cover an impression of somebody’s behaviour but shouldn’t be a judgment about a person or about the personality of a person. Feedback can create a chance to learn more about oneself and to improve one’s performance. People often learn more from the biggest pain than from the biggest success.

What experiences have you made with giving/ receiving feedback? Are these tips helpful? Do you have a feedback culture at work or in your coach-athlete-relationship? What can you still improve on?

madeleine eppensteiner