Giving Feedback Effectively


"In life there is no failure, only feedback."  ~ Akitis Agios


Feedback is a way of helping another person to consider changing his or her behavior or, reinforce effective behaviors.  It is a communication to a person that gives that person information about how he or she affects others.


Some criteria for offering useful feedback include:


1.      It is descriptive rather than evaluative.

By describing your own reactions, it leaves the individual free to use it or to not use it as he/she sees fit.  By avoiding evaluative language, you reduce the need for the individual to respond defensively.


2.      It is specific rather than general.

To be told that one is “dominating” will probably not be as useful as to be told that “just now when we were deciding the issue, you did not listen to what others said and I felt forced to accept your arguments or face attack from you.”  Avoid using words like “always,” “never,” or “all.”


3.      It takes into account the needs of both the receiver and the giver of the feedback.

Feedback can be destructive when it serves only our own needs and fails to consider the needs of the person on the receiving end.  As the giver, examine your motives for offering feedback to be helpful, not superior.  Avoid overloading receivers, instead try to focus on the most immediate and important aspects first.


4.      It is only directed toward changeable behaviors.

Frustration is only increased when a person is reminded of a shortcoming over which he or she has no control.  Focus on the behavior (or product or event), not on the person.  Use “I” statements to keep the focus on your perception of the behavior and its impact.


5.      It is solicited rather than imposed.

Feedback is most useful when the received asks for feedback on his or her behavior.


6.      It is well-timed.

In general, feedback is most useful at the earliest opportunity after the given behavior.  This depends on the individual’s readiness to hear it, support available from others, etc.


7.      It is checked with the receiver to ensure that the feedback was heard correctly.

One way of doing this is to have the receiver try to rephrase the feedback he or she has received to see if it corresponds to what the giver had in mind.


8.      Check the accuracy of the feedback with others in the group.

Is this one person’s impression or an impression shared by others?



Receiving Feedback Effectively


"In life there is no failure, only feedback."  ~ Akitis Agios


Receiving feedback can make you feel uncomfortable.  However you can manage your actions in response to the feedback you receive.  When you receive feedback, work to reflect back to the person what you hear them saying.  This helps to check the accuracy of the feedback, and also creates an opportunity for two-way communication.  It is also important to not become defensive but to accept feedback from others with an open-mind.


Some criteria for receiving and reflecting useful feedback include:


1.      Reflect feelings

Using your own words, express the essential feelings stated or strongly implied by the feedback giver.  For example, “It sounds like that made you upset or frustrated.”


2.      Reflect content

Secondary to feelings, repeat in fewer and fresher words the essential thoughts of the feedback giver.  For example, “You must have been thinking, …”


3.      Mirroring and Parroting

By merely repeat what the giver has said, using the same words, avoids unintentionally under or over stating the degree of feeling.  This also gives you time to rehear and reconsider the feedback.


4.      Paraphrasing

Use this method to restate the giver’s basic message in similar words, which tests your understanding of what the person said.  It may also help you retain the feedback if you can put it in a context that has meaning for you.  For example, “what I hear you saying is …”


5.      Summarizing

To help wrap up a feedback conversation, try tying several ideas and feelings together to create a natural close.  For example, “We’ve talking about several different things, but the main points as I see them are …”


6.      Clarifying

Bring vague or unspecific feedback into sharper focus by asking for confirmation or correction on what was said.  Try phrases like “so if I understand you correctly…” or “what I think you mean is…, is that right?”


7.      Cheerleading

Not only is it okay to tell the giver that you are glad he or she took action by talking with you, it is helpful to encourage the person further by commenting on what a positive sign of strength asking for or giving feedback can be.