Positive feedback, when applied correctly, is the single best way to get most people to grow.
First, some definitions:
“Constructive feedback” is when you give someone advice, feedback, etc. on how to improve. You might be taking a golf lesson and your instructor suggests you shift your weight a little to the left. This is specific, targeted and timely feedback that helps millions of people every day. It can really help people stop doing things that are less productive and also help people start doing things that are more productive. Constructive feedback has been the practice of choice for many great managers, coaches, parents, etc.
“Positive feedback” is when you explain to someone what they did well. Most people think this type of feedback is “great job,” “thanks for staying late,” or something like that. But the best positive feedback is when you dissect why or how someone did something good. A good tennis instructor will walk a player through how they hit the serve so well or why one of their forehands had so much power. They key for positive feedback to work well is to teach the person something. Just saying “great job” can be helpful, but often people don’t always know why it was so great. You need to explain why something was good.
Even in relationships, positive feedback can be really helpful. Saying “I love you” a lot is great. Telling someone why you love them is even better.
Great positive feedback, like great constructive feedback, is specific, timely and targeted. It doesn’t need to happen immediately after an action, but it does need to happen while the memories are still fresh.
This question originally appeared on Quora: What's the best way to constructively criticize someone for positive improvement?
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