It makes a difference.
Recently, I watched a short video by Daniel Pink discussing advice versus feedback. Pink’s guidance? “Don’t ask for feedback; ask for advice.” He explains most people love giving advice. Many struggle providing critical feedback even when warranted, however, when cloaked as advice, it can be delivered in a softer, more positive way. Finally, effective feedback is actionable. Giving advice means giving the action steps required to improve. He references the work of Shane Parrish in closing: “Asking for feedback creates a critic. Asking for advice creates a partner.”
When Pink connected feedback to the critic, something clicked for me. One of the regular challenges I faced in HR was about managers and employees wanting feedback and either not receiving it at all or inadequately. “How do I provide feedback?” was a common refrain. People avoided giving feedback unless it was either positive or couched as a &#it sandwich (Claire Lew provides a great summary on this topic if you want to learn more).
We know people want feedback to do or be better. Pink addresses the challenge of feedback directly by reframing it as advice. In a business context, I would position feedback as advice to adjust the perspective on it. This works from both the manager’s perspective – who is looking to shape and grow the employee – and the employee’s perspective – who is looking to grow. Instead of saying what is going right or wrong, share what you wish you had known that would have helped you change and grow. The best advice comes through real-life examples, how the advisor did (or didn’t) do it effectively.
The critic puts us on the defensive immediately. Creating a partnership doesn’t. I’ve always believed “you can catch more flies with honey.” Critics pit one side against another whereas partners stand side by side. That’s how advice proves more effective than feedback. When someone stands beside you, you are on the same journey.