book cover
“Every day of our lives we are assessed, coached and criticised about our performance, personalities and our appearance.”

Thanks for the Feedback Book Review

Thanks for the Feedback, by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, 2014


In this book the authors, both skilled negotiators, take on the tension between wanting feedback and handling it, especially when its ‘off base, unfair and poorly delivered.’ What makes this book interesting is that it approaches the topic from the perspective of how to receive feedback in order to make the process useful. The book is written with summaries and a roadmap outlining the key points.

So What? 

Feedback has three forms – evaluation, coaching and appreciation and for each of these there are three ‘triggers’ which block our readiness to receive it.

Evaluation, coaching and appreciation get mixed up when we receive feedback. Our task is to separate them out and be clear which we are doing.

The triggers subconsciously distort how we receive feedback. Truth triggers challenge our view of ourselves and our performance. Relationship triggers are caused by our relationship with whoever is giving feedback. Identity triggers shift our preoccupation to consequences for our sense of self, reputation and future.

Now What?

“Shift from that’s wrong to tell me more.”

Avoid finding yourself the recipient of unhelpful, generic feedback by asking clarifying questions during the process. Pay attention to non-verbal cues, they contribute as much as 40% to outcomes. Seek to understand. Spot the relationship issues which might result in a shared conversation but having two different starting points. If this happens step away.

The authors argue that we respond in ways that are largely predetermined by DNA. Your baseline level of happiness – how far you swing in the face of negative or positive feedback and how long the swing lasts – is innate. Alarm bells should start to ring as soon as non-scientists try to enrol evidence from brain research. The best advice in the book is to remain detached, focusing on what will help you grow.

This is a very helpful book. We would have liked a bibliography to go straight to items of interest, but we do have a very useful road map.