Author Dan Heath provided advice on the type of feedback that was most helpful to him as he shared drafts of his books. Instead of asking for “global feedback” – for example, asking what early readers thought or how the structure was framed – he found it more productive to ask for comments on specific aspects of the book.

He likened feedback to a consumer being asked about what beer they like – it’s often hard for them to articulate. But when asked whether they like Beer A or Beer B better, people almost always instantly have a firm opinion.

Heath recommends framing your feedback questions in terms of whether people like A or B. In book terms this could translate to asking whether a specific story conveyed the point of the chapter effectively or whether the reader found a specific concept useful. Asking these types of questions – and asking them early enough in the process so you can actually use the information before you become too invested in what you have developed – has worked best for him.

Think of how you can adopt this method of inquiry to feedback that you need to receive. It can be on simple matters – instead of asking “What would you like for a snack?” instead you could ask “Would you rather have walnuts or candy?”. On work projects, you can provide an outline and ask for their opinion if section A should be before or after B. When asking someone to critique your website you may ask if the navigation button should be on the bottom or left.

Heath said that “you may get answers to meta-terms but you can’t trust them because people don’t have the language to describe” what they actually feel or mean. Especially when much of our feedback is coming remotely where we can’t pick up on body language nuances, strive to remove the vagueness and frame your requests in terms that can prove to be truly helpful.

Source: Dan Heath in So you want to write a book podcast

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