‘Feedback’ is a communication to a person or a group which gives that person information about how they affect others. Feedback helps an individual consider and alter their behaviour and thus better achieve their goals.
It is important to be able to give feedback in such a way that people can hear it, take it in, evaluate it, and change behaviour which affects their relationship with others.
A basic premise here is that people really do want to hear what other people have to say about them, both positive and critical. We may have unpleasant feelings about how it has happened in the past, but we do look for all kinds of signals and messages about ourselves from others. When someone takes the time to think about us and give us direct information about how we are perceived, it can be quite an affirming experience.
A simple and very useful model for nonviolent feedback is:
- Observing – “I’ve noticed that…”
- Feeling – “What I’m feeling is…”
- Needs – “What I need is…”
- Request – “I’d like to ask that…”
From Marshall Rosenberg.
Below are seven criteria for useful feedback:
- Useful feedback is descriptive rather than evaluative. It merely describes what is seen or heard, thus the receiver is left free to use it or not. By avoiding evaluative language, it reduces the need for the receiver to respond defensively.
- Is specific rather than general. “You weren’t listening”, is not as helpful as “Just when Sam started talking about his mother, your eyes looked elsewhere and it looked as though you were not listening to what he was saying”.
- It takes into account the needs of both the receiver and the giver of feedback. Feedback can be destructive when it serves only the giver’s needs and fails to consider the needs of the receiver.
- It is directed toward behaviour that the receiver can change . Frustration is only increased when one is reminded of a shortcoming over which there is little control.
- It is asked for rather than imposed. Feedback is most useful when it is asked for.
- It is well timed. In general, feedback is most useful when given as soon as possible after the observed behaviour (depending of course, on the person’s readiness to hear it, and on the support available from others if the receiver is acutely vulnerable, etc.).
- It is checked with the receiver. When people receive feedback they are likely to be anxious and consequently they may hear a different message than what was intended. It is therefore important to check that the person has correctly heard the feedback.
Most people feel they are in the ‘hot seat’ when receiving feedback and many people block out positive acknowledgment and only hear critical comments. In these circumstances it is common for the negative criticism to be exaggerated or distorted, rather than being counterbalanced by positive acknowledgments.
To make use of feedback it is important to accurately hear it, and for it to be in a useful form.
- Stay calm, receptive and listen attentively.
- Use your active listening skills.
- Try to reflect back what you heard, in both the feelings and content.
- Ask for clarification, and check out the person’s meanings.
- Ask if you have correctly heard the key points.
- Assert your right to have feedback given in a useful form.
- Attempt to make use of the information provided.
- Active listening
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