Unsolicited Feedback: Why it Doesn’t Work

by | Jun 2, 2022

​​“Open to constructive feedback?” 

My immediate reaction when that gem of a question popped into my LinkedIn messages: “Not from you!” I refrained from flailing that response, deciding it had a bit too much of a nanna-nanna-poo-poo-type vibe.

Although I was tempted.

I’ve learned when my face flushes and this one particular vein in the back of my dome starts throbbing and NSFW words flood my inner dialogue, it’s time to pause, close out LinkedIn messenger, and WALK AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER.

Walk I did. I headed outside and asked myself, as I often do, “Erin…What’s up, sister? Why that reaction? What about those 4 words has you all out of sorts?”

Logical Erin stepped in and broke it down. My walk’s ponderings produced a handy list for you to use next time you feel the need to give unsolicited feedback (spoiler: don’t) or are on the receiving end of those four-fury-inducing words.

  1. Consider the source. I barely knew this dude. We’re part of a fairly large online group but have had zero one-on-one exchanges. He doesn’t know me! I don’t know him! There’s no rapport, no trust, no mutual respect established between us. Those are just some of the foundational relationship cues that should be established before you exchange feedback.
  2. The use of the word “constructive.” How do YOU know it’ll be constructive? That whole concept is a bit subjective, don’t you think? I mean come on…Feedback 101 Basics: feedback should be objective. Since he didn’t know what I was trying to achieve, his “constructive” feedback would therefore be subjective. This brings me to the final point…
  3. Assuming and not asking. Let’s say I’m facilitating a session where the sole purpose is to give feedback about people’s work. Let’s say the person just ran through a coaching conversation, now anticipating feedback. The first question out of my mouth is one of two: “What was your intention?” Or, “What was your intended outcome?

    With their response, I now have a context to base my feedback. My feedback then becomes relevant to the outcome they are trying to achieve.

    In my case? He jumped to the feedback without context. With his four-word question, he assumed and didn’t ask what my goal was, therefore taking a risk that his comments would even remotely hit the mark.

In short:

  • As a general rule, do not give unsolicited feedback.
  • If you must, have a baseline relationship with the person so there is a foundation of trust and respect.
  • Ask their intention before assuming their outcome. Then feedback becomes relevant! 

Now, if you’re on the edge of your seat wondering if, I did, in fact, respond—the answer is yes. (Post-processing-walk, so my chi was back.) Mostly, it was to test my above hypothesis.

His response did not disappoint! Meaning he hit all the points in a truly annoying way. He was completely off the mark concerning anything I was trying to accomplish. Then, he signed off with a, “Sharing because I like you…I wouldn’t make the effort unless I did.”

Which set me pacing around the block again and a subject for a whole other newsletter.

What’s your take? Have you been on the receiving end of unsolicited feedback, requiring a stroll around the block? Do you embrace feedback in any form–solicited or not? Or have you been the unasked-feedback-giver? (Full disclosure, I’ve done it a few times myself! 😬  Awareness=learning.)

Hit comment and let me know if you’ve got a feedback story for the books. I’d genuinely love to hear. 


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