Giving Feedback Just Got Trickier

  • April 21, 2021
  • Deborah Glatter

Feedback was always a tricky skill to master, and it’s even trickier now. There are two related reasons: first, the psychological impact of the pandemic and second, the challenge of providing feedback in a virtual world.

The Psychology

Let’s go back to Psychology 101 and look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, shown below. Would you place feedback near the top of the hierarchy? Most would.













In fact, psychologists tell us that feedback sits near the bottom of the hierarchy, somewhere around “safety” or “belonging”. Our brains see feedback as a primal threat, and we go into self-preservation mode when it’s offered to us. Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, explains: “Threats to our standing in the eyes of others are remarkably potent biologically, almost as those to our very survival.”

Today, many people are feeling physically unsafe and thus experiencing a heightened threat response. When feedback is presented against that psychological backdrop, it’s not surprising that recipients quickly shift into survival mode and become defensive. Giving feedback has gotten trickier, so bear in mind a few tips to ensure that your feedback has a good chance of being heard and acted upon.