6 Ways to Ask for Feedback

Photo by  Jon Tyson

Photo by Jon Tyson

Working in international contexts implies operating in truly complex and delicate settings with high levels of cultural diversity, collaboration styles and frequently within globally scattered teams. This entails the possibility of some diplomats malfunctioning from time to time, both in the execution of tasks and in the cooperation between teammates. In order to minimise such situations as much as possible, the promotion of an open and healthy working environment is an absolute must. This means exchanging feedback on a regular basis.

A feedback-rich culture, where individuals are comfortable asking for and receiving feedback from their colleagues and supervisors, can really change how a workplace operates and has multiple benefits for both the people and the broader organisation in general. Although receiving feedback can be somewhat daunting at times, it must be understood that it does not equal to criticism. On the contrary, it is rather a supportive action intended to deal with flaws in a constructive way aimed at increasing the performance and fostering probabilities of success of a group or individual.

As defined by the Oxford Dictionary, feedback is: “information about reactions to a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement.”  

On a broader interpretation of the term, it could be said that keeping a good feedback flow will not only show people what they do correctly already, inspiring greater confidence and commitment in those already performing well, but also where they need to develop or improve their work or behaviour in order to achieve their goals in a more effective and easier way.


Useful tips before asking for or giving any feedback

The golden rule to giving or receiving feedback is to absolutely avoid making any judgment based on one’s own subjective motivations, attitude or worse prejudice towards a person. Feedback should focus on and look at the performance of others in a truly objective, professional and constructive way, with the goal of helping them improve their performance and unlock their greatest potential. This is particularly important in a delicate field such as diplomacy. 

When looking for feedback, consider asking people what you can do better going forward, instead of what you did wrong in the past. When asking individuals what you can do to be more effective in the future, they tend to be more honest. 

Finally, whenever possible, remember to ask people for advice instead of opinions. This will make them feel more engaged and comfortable expressing their views and ideas at the same time, as giving you feedback will look more like an invitation to contribute to your work rather than a mere judgment. Ask therefore questions such as “Can you give me advice on this?” rather than “What do you think of this?”

Here are six foolproof ways to ask for feedback so that you can continue on your personal growth journey as an effective diplomat.


1. Conversational feedback

The easiest way to ask for feedback is to simply ask for advice. Straight talking may seem old fashioned, but interacting with one another in person is still the best option if you wish to gain some truly valuable insights. This allows you to interpret non-verbal communication that is often missing from digital feedback, which is more revealing than words can express. Conversational feedback can be both of formal and informal nature. A quick chat over coffee break or at lunch – when people are much more relaxed and comfortable talking and exchanging thoughts and viewpoints – could be sometimes a better idea instead of the more classical meetings. 

Conversational feedback can be organised in different forms. You can set up one-to-one personal discussions or group meetings, either offline or through live online video chat and conferencing services such as Skype or Zoom, provided free of charge for iOS and Android devices.

2. Writing an e-mail

Writing an e-mail is a simple and convenient way of asking for advice. Using this tool gives people time to reflect and prepare an answer rather than be put on the spot in person. In some cases, your email can prompt to a more personal conversation, which could further develop your discussion with your interlocutor.

3. Using the social media

Whether it is Linkedin, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Viber or any other locally popular version such as VKontakte, using social media as a mean of asking for feedback can be a surprisingly insightful. Through these mediums, people will feel more comfortable interacting with you due to the more informal nature of social media. You can either post something and ask for advice through public comments or set up queries and post them as “stories” aimed at receiving private messages.

4. The Tap My Back app

Tap My Back is a very intuitive software and app available both for iOS and Android devices specifically designed to help organisations create a continuous feedback culture to improve engagement among colleagues, workplace performance and team motivation. With a series of different features, such as private feedback sharing, surveys, mood tracking and data analysis, Tap My Back will help you increase team motivation and personal development. Price ranges from $2.50 to $9.50 a month, depending on the features you would like to unlock.

5. Exploiting the powerful features of SurveyMonkey

SurveyMonkey is an excellent and easy-to-use online survey tool that gives millions of people around the world a way to turn feedback into action that drives growth and innovation. This formidable instrument offers users the choice between a wide range of functions, including employee engagement and opinion, and a series of pre-set templates specifically designed to ask people for feedback. SurveyMonkey is available as a web version and a mobile app for both iOS and Android devices with subscriptions ranging from $33 to $85 a month, depending on options.

6. Look for some anonymous advice

Another way to ask for feedback would be to simply demand people to write or print their suggestions anonymously in a designated box, which should be opened regularly for review. Alternatively, you could create questionnaires with specific inquiries. The only issue about this system is that due to its nature of secrecy, it encourages people to express their opinion more easily and may potentially be misused. It is advisable to employ caution and inform people beforehand of its value and potentially detrimental effects if used improperly.