Marie: I did? Ah, yes, I remember! It won’t take long.
O: Is there a problem?
M: No, not at all! Actually, I just wanted to tell you I really liked how you handled the meeting with Omnitouch.
O: Oh, thanks!
M: It was a challenging situation. None of us thought they would come in with so many difficult, technical questions, and, honestly, that guy – what was his name? Brian? – I thought he was being quite aggressive. I admired the way you were able to keep your cool and stick to the point.
O: Sure, I suppose it wasn’t the easiest meeting, but it wasn’t too stressful. I’m used to situations like that.
M: Yes, but still, not everyone can stay calm in that position. Also, the visuals you prepared for our presentation were very impressive. They looked professional, but also communicated key information clearly.
O: Glad you think so.
M: Anyway, I just wanted to let you know. Keep up the good work!
O: Will do!
In the dialogue, you heard different ways to praise someone’s work by giving feedback that’s positive.
Look at some sentences.
I ________ liked how you handled the meeting with Omnitouch.
I ________ the way you were able to keep your cool and stick to the point.
The visuals you had prepared for our presentation were very ________.
________ up the good work!
Can you remember the missing words? If not, you can review the dialogue if you want.
Here are the answers.
I really liked how you handled the meeting with Omnitouch.
I admired the way you were able to keep your cool and stick to the point.
The visuals you had prepared for our presentation were very impressive.
Keep up the good work!
You can use these phrases in other ways. For example:
I really liked how you explained everything so clearly.
I admire the way you never miss a deadline, even when we’re under a lot of pressure.
The way you dealt with that customer’s complaint was very impressive.
What about you? Can you think of other ways to complete these sentences?
I really liked how…
I admire(d) the way you…
…was/were very impressive.
Think about your work recently. Have your colleagues done anything which impressed you? Use your own ideas to complete these sentences. Pause the video and say your examples out loud now.
What about ‘keep up the good work’? This is a general phrase. You can use it when you’re pleased with someone’s work, and you want to encourage them.
Next, what if you need to give feedback that is negative?
2. Giving Negative Feedback Directly
Oli: Can I have a word?
Marie: Sure, what is it?
O: Well, I had a chance to look through your draft proposal.
O: I’ll cut to the chase: it needs a lot of work. This is a long, complex document. It needs to be well-organised, clearly laid-out, and make a good impression on whoever reads it.
M: So, what needs changing?
O: Honestly, I think you need to go back to the drawing board and think about how to organise your ideas. Currently, it’s hard to follow because it’s incoherent. You jump from one topic to another, which makes it difficult to focus on your main idea.
O: Also, you need to pay more attention to detail. I checked some of the data you quote, and many of the figures are inaccurate. I didn’t check everything, because that’s your responsibility. Remember that their legal department will also be looking through this, so it needs to be watertight. Double check any figures or other data you’re using and don’t cut corners.
M: OK, that’s my fault. I’ll be more careful.
O: Finally, you need to tidy up the language. There are spelling mistakes, ungrammatical sentences, missing punctuation, and so on. I hope it’s obvious that you can’t make spelling mistakes in a piece of writing like this; it won’t make a good impression.
M: No, of course not.
O: So, do you think you can deal with this and get a revised draft to me by the end of the week?
M: Sure, I’ll do that.
When giving negative feedback, you can choose between being more direct or more indirect.
This depends on many things: the country you’re in, corporate culture, your relationship with the person you’re talking to, and more.
Here, you saw some ways to give feedback that is negative directly. Look at some phrases from the dialogue.
I’ll cut to the chase…
You need to go back to the drawing board.
Don’t cut corners.
Imagine someone asks you to explain what these phrases mean in English. How would you do it? Pause the video and think about how to explain the meaning of these phrases.
‘I’ll cut to the chase’ signals that you’re about to say something negative in a direct way. It’s a way to introduce a criticism.
‘Go back to the drawing board’ means to start something again. You use this phrase when something is not going to plan, and you need to start again from zero.
If you cut corners, you rush your work, or you don’t pay enough attention to it. If you tell someone ‘don’t cut corners’, you are telling that person to work carefully and pay attention to detail.
Generally, if you want to give feedback directly, you’ll use simpler statements with ‘you’. For example:
You need to pay more attention to detail.
You should double check your figures before you send it.
You can’t go into a meeting like that unprepared.
Direct language is generally simpler. You can use ‘you’ + a verb, as in ‘you need to’, ‘you should’, ‘you shouldn’t’, ‘you can’t’, and so on.
Now, what about giving feedback that’s negative in a more indirect way?
3. Giving Negative Feedback Indirectly
Marie: Do you have a minute?
Oli: Sure, what’s up?
M: There’s a little issue I wanted to discuss with you. Actually, there have been some complaints about the language and humour you use in meetings and in the office generally. More than one person has complained to me that they find it unprofessional and offensive.
O: Really? Like what?
M: I don’t want to get into specific cases. I just want to remind you that this is a workplace, and there are certain standards of conduct that we all have to adhere to.
O: So what? No jokes allowed?
M: That’s not what I’m saying, but it’s important to understand that not everyone will have the same perspective or sense of humour as you. It’s advisable to be cautious with your choice of words, especially in meetings or other situations where perhaps not everyone knows each other.
O: This seems a little unfair, given that you’re not saying who made these complaints, or what I’m supposed to have said.
M: Well, this is just a friendly chat, but I have also observed some examples of these issues directly. I don’t want to take this further, but I would like you to keep these things in mind; hopefully we can avoid similar issues in future.
In this dialogue, you saw how to give feedback that is negative indirectly. Here’s a question: what are some features of indirect language? How is indirect language different from the direct language you heard in part two?
Indirect language is generally softer and more impersonal. When giving negative feedback, if you want to be indirect, you’ll generally avoid sentences with ‘you’.
Instead, you’ll use impersonal constructions, for example with ‘there’. You heard
There have been some complaints about the language and humour you use in meetings.
There are certain standards of conduct that we all have to adhere to.
It’s important to understand that not everyone will have the same perspective or sense of humour as you.
It’s advisable to be cautious with your choice of words.
Take that last example. How would you say this in more direct language?
You would say something like: ‘You need to be more cautious with your choice of words’, or ‘You should be more cautious…’
Also, indirect language tends to be less specific. In the dialogue I avoided going into details about the problem. I didn’t say who had complained, or describe specific incidents.
Think about the differences between direct and indirect language that you’ve seen here. When you need to give someone negative feedback, it’s good to decide which approach to use, and control your language accordingly.
4. Responding to Feedback
Oli: Right, so, about the new design for the logo…
Marie: Yeah, I’m curious to hear your thoughts.
O: First of all, the colours look strange, don’t you think?
M: Sure, I’m aware of that. I made the prototypes on my laptop while I was on the road, and the screen isn’t good enough for design work. I’ll adjust the colours on my desktop. I know how I want it to look.
O: OK, that sounds good. Now, I like the basic design, with the overlapping circles. I do think the text should be larger.
M: Alright, I can look into that. Sometimes it’s hard to balance the proportions when you start changing things, but I’ll see what I can do.
O: Then, I think the thing I like least is these triangles on the right. Overall, it looks too busy. There are too many shapes and different parts.
M: Well, there I have to disagree with you. Our logo now has triangles inside a circle. This new logo takes the same elements, but presents them in a new way. It’s different, but there’s also some continuity with the current logo, which I think is important.
M: I mean, I can try to come up with some more ideas, but I don’t think this particular logo makes sense if you take the triangles out. Plus, it’ll look unbalanced.
O: Look, I like it overall, but I don’t want to rush this decision, and I think you could improve on this design with a bit more time. How about you come up with one or two more versions, and then we’ll decide as a team?
M: OK, that sounds fair. I’ll see what I can do.
When someone is giving you feedback, you can receive feedback by responding in different ways.
You can acknowledge their point, or agree with it. You can promise to take action. Or, you can disagree.
Look at five phrases you heard in the dialogue. Can you remember the missing words?
I’m ________ of that.
I can look ________ that.
I have to ________ with you.
That ________ fair.
I’ll ________ what I can do.
Pause the video if you need more thinking time.
Let’s see the answers together.
I’m aware of that.
I can look into that.
I have to agree with you.
That seems fair.
I’ll see what I can do.
To acknowledge or agree with a point someone makes, you can say ‘I’m aware of that’ or ‘That sounds fair’.
You could also use phrases like ‘I understand,’ ‘I get it’, or ‘I take your point.’