Giving and Receiving Negative Feedback

How to do it respectfully and in a way that improves your relationships rather than harming them

Anna Geller
4 min readJan 15


One of the most challenging aspects of giving and receiving negative feedback is understanding how people can respond to it. While some prefer more direct feedback, others can feel personally attacked by it. You need to know the person on the other side to assess that correctly. If you don’t, be extra cautious because the same message can be interpreted differently depending on who’s the feedback receiver and how and when the feedback is given.

Receiving feedback can be difficult, too. Many try to justify or argue with negative feedback rather than just taking it.

Giving negative feedback

To give negative feedback in a positive way, it’s often recommended to do it:

  1. Privately — don’t give negative feedback publicly; you can give praise in public, but don’t criticize in public; otherwise, it can damage that person’s reputation and your relationship with them.
  2. Not about the person — good feedback is action or outcome specific, not about the person and their character flaws.
  3. Respectfully & professionally — choose the words carefully, use a professional tone, and don’t be too direct; otherwise, the feedback receiver can get defensive. If something is not a fact, you can use the language “I feel like…” or “It seems like…” showing that this is only your impression, which might be wrong.
  4. Thoughtfully & prepared — instead of giving it impulsively, better to thoroughly think through whether this person should receive that negative feedback, when, and in which form.
  5. Sincerely — don’t give (fake) praise about something else to compensate for negative feedback. A commonly accepted form is to start with something positive before bringing up negative feedback — this can work well if both the positive and negative aspects of the feedback are related and if you do it honestly.
  6. Constructively & forward-looking — don’t blame for the past; help correct for the future; discuss how you can work together to prevent similar issues in the future.



Anna Geller

Data Engineering, AWS Cloud, Serverless & .py. Get my articles via email YouTube: