How To Give Negative Feedback (Without Sounding Like A Jerk)

Getting honest, useful feedback is an important part of any project or career. Of course, positive feedback is awesome because it motivates you to keep up the good work. Negative feedback can be painful to hear, but if you can swallow your pride, it presents the opportunity to improve what you’re working on.

Image remixed from Leremy and Pixel Embargo (Shutterstock).

On the other side, being able to deliver good feedback (especially negative feedback) means you have the opportunity to influence people and projects to make them better. But because many people shut down when recieving negative feedback, it’s important to deliver that feedback the right way.

As a startup founder, I give and receive a ton of feedback both positive and negative, so this is something I think about a lot. Here are some suggestions I have for delivering negative feedback effectively.


  • Show you care about the person/project. “I’m totally behind your efforts to help disabled athletes in China…”
  • Show you understand and are aligned with the project’s goals. “I know you are focusing on just one market at this time…”
  • Show that you’ve thought about where they’re coming from. “I bet you saw good reasons to use three buttons instead of two…”
  • Be specific about the situation/thing you are giving feedback on. “When I was trying to send a picture to my girlfriend, it also shared on Facebook and I didn’t expect that…”
  • Explain exactly why you think this is a problem. “If the party playlist is only remixes of ‘Call Me Maybe’ I think a lot of people would get annoyed and leave early…”
  • Show that you are open to different solutions. “I could see us building more test units or focusing more on quality assurance before the release…”
  • Recognize the limits of your knowledge/expertise. “I don’t work in your industry, but one thing that’s worked for us is…”


  • Generalize or exaggerate. “Makes me throw up every time I look at it!”
  • Give unnecessarily rude feedback. “An utter piece of shit…”
  • Indicate that there is one and only one possible solution. “There’s no question that if you don’t immediately build this feature, everyone is going to leave.”
  • Assume the worst motives of the people involved. “These guys are like all other investment bankers — they swindle others to enrich themselves.

How to Give (Negative) Feedback Effectively [Jason Shen

Jason Shen is co-founder of Ridejoy, a friendly community marketplace for rideshare, and blogs at The Art of Ass-Kicking.

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