Getting feedback is an important part of learning to solve problems. The way you give that feedback can make a big difference in how it will motivate (or deflate) young people. Here are four steps you can use when young people seek your help in solving problems:

1. Why?

Care: Begin by showing that you are interested in the young person. You care about her or his learning, growth, and success.
Progress: Focus on feedback that will help the young person make progress toward what he or she wants to accomplish, learn, or improve.
Confidence: Be clear that you’re giving feedback because you believe he or she can do it.

2. What?

When and Where: Give feedback that’s timely (but not before he or she is ready). Give it privately to avoid embarrassment.
Specific: Describe specific actions or behaviors you noticed that can be changed and practiced. Give concrete examples.
Strengths and Gaps: What was he or she doing that helped? What was getting in the way? Knowing both increases learning.

3. So What?

Listen, Then Share: Listen first for her or his ideas for steps to improve based on what you saw. Offer additional ideas, if needed.
Connect to Goals: Talk together about the connections to goals that motivate ongoing practice and improvement.
Build Confidence: Reinforce the young person’s self-feedback and ideas for growth. It builds internal motivation and commitment.

4. Now What?

Reaction: Pay attention to reactions. Does the feedback ring true? Does he or she understand? Is it overwhelming?
Doable: Identify one or two changes that can make a difference now, and focus on those.
Repeat: As the young person tries new things, keep giving feedback that helps her or him grow. Celebrate progress along the way.

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