How to Give Feedback Without Hurting Feelings

Giving Feedback – Keep It Constructive

Giving someone feedback on work is one of the most dreaded things we do in the creative field. Most of the time, the people you will be giving feedback to are friends or frequent collaborators. We do not want them to feel attacked or take things personally. In this article, I will show you how to give feedback in a way that will strengthen your relationship with your creative collaborators.

Change your perspective about feedback

The relationship with your creative team doesn’t end when the filming is complete, nor is it finished when the final video is delivered and uploaded to your website. Often times, the people you work with are frequent collaborators. Both parties have a lot at stake if the video that comes out of it is not good. The feedback phase is the next opportunity to make sure that you and your team deliver an excellent final product to your client.

Remember this saying:

You don’t make films by yourself. You make films as a team.

The magic word: “Our”

Everyone working on the production of a video or short film puts in a lot of hours, a lot of expertise, and hopefully a good attitude. That being said, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the director of a film refer to the film as “my film,” and don’t attribute the success of the film to their hard working crew who made themselves available to work for next to nothing to make it a reality. This just leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Always give credit where it is due and never forget a single person who helped you.

Be willing to give everyone on your team feedback

If you’re not willing to give feedback to each and every member of your team, don’t give feedback at all. This is what can make certain people feel like you “have it out for them” or are “playing favorites.”

Keep feedback constructive

Giving feedback that is constructive means giving feedback that will help to improve the final product and not attack anyone’s skills or abilities. Put yourself in your team member’s shoes. No one wants to feel like they are being put on trial or like they disappointed you; this is every creative’s worst fear. One solution to this is to create a company culture that encourages everyone’s unique ways of working and seeing things, and making it a safe environment for exchanging ideas.

Let them know that every one of them has great ideas, however, you must look out for the needs of the client as well. It is up to you to cherry pick the best ideas in order to deliver a successful video to the client. Let your team know that it is not an easy job for you to turn down certain ideas while going with other ideas that aren’t necessarily creatively-satisfying in order to please the client. Make it about the client, because it is.

Giving feedback that is constructive is also something that can help the team member to improve upon their own craft by seeing more ways to do something. This in turn will be an asset for the next project. Some egos will get in the way, and sometimes these will be the most talented people you will meet. Not everyone will fit into what your company culture is, and that is okay. Just always consider if the real problem is yourself and how you are treating people. These are opportunities to either refine your team or adapt your methods. Remember, that every one of us is learning and that people all have their own personal issues that they are working through.

Be specific with your feedback

Being constructive with your feedback also means giving your team something that they can actually work with. This means being specific with your feedback and communicating on the same level. Stating, “I don’t like it,” won’t help your team solve a problem. Let your team member know what exactly isn’t working for you and why. Here are three ways to be specific and constructive with your feedback:

Describe your emotional reactions to things in the video – Everyone has similar ideas of what feeling sad or happy, or scared is, so connect to your team members with these emotions. Example: “When I see shot X, it makes me feel sad. Are there other shots we can use?”

Phrase feedback in an open-ended nature – “What if we moved this shot here instead?” and “Would the video flow better if we removed that shot?” What this does is brings them into your shoes by asking their opinion and it involves them in the process rather than having it be one-sided and making them feel singled-out. You are letting them know that you value their opinion.

Offer suggestions and ideas that involve the footage and resources you already have – Review all the footage prior to giving feedback to know what you have to work with. Show your team that you are putting in the effort and really just want to make this video work. Reviewing footage again is also helpful in that sometimes the editor (or whomever) simply missed something.

Final thoughts

Giving feedback doesn’t have to be difficult when everyone is on the same page. Keep the focus on the client’s needs and you’ll end up with a strong video and an even stronger team.

Have another tip on how to give feedback? Leave a comment below.


Valerie is a freelance filmmaker, video editor, and photographer based in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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