Feedback (sometimes referred to as positive criticism) is a process in which the effect or output of an action is ‘returned’ (fed-back) to modify the next action.
Feedback should only ever be used as a basis for improvement. It should not be mistaken for negative criticism and vice verse. If feedback does not provide learning or a chance to improve, then it is being communicated as negative criticism.
“Admonish your friends privately, but praise them openly.” – Publilius Syrus (35 B.C.)
Why is feedback important?
Whether you are a teacher, employer, manager, supervisor, employee, parent, friend or foe, feedback is a crucial and important aspect of communication. We gauge another’s reaction by a combination of their facial expressions, body language, tone of voice as well as actual speech. It allows us gain insight into whether we are communicating effectively or not. We then change our own style of communication based on the feedback we receive.
Catherine the Great once said, “I like to praise and reward loudly, to blame quietly.” So the general rule is; Praise in public, criticise in private. There are exceptions to this rule when a gross violation is made and needs to be pointed out immediately, or others are aware of a negative situation and it would be beneficial to condemn whatever behaviour was observed.
Providing effective feedback
- Ensure you are not providing subjective feedback based on your own emotions
- Ensure you are giving feedback on an action and not the person themselves
- Provide feedback as soon as possible
- Use the “Sandwich” process if you must provide negative feedback – sandwich it between positive feedback
- Ensure you stick to facts and keep emotion out of the process
- Demonstrate respect at all times, and be prepared for possible defensiveness
- Ask questions but be careful of “WHY?” questions – they can provoke a defensive reaction
“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” – Ken Blanchard
Receiving feedback effectively
- Make sure you keep an open mind and be objective about receiving any criticism. Make a conscious decision to learn from the experience.
- Listen to the person providing the feedback – allow them to explain themselves properly
- Beware of defensive emotions. Listen with a neutral view and refrain from jumping in with justifications
- If receiving negative feedback – accept it for what it is and learn from it to improve future actions
- Don’t dwell on feedback and allow your ego to feel hurt by comments. Don’t let your ego hold you back, where it is “safe”
- Ensure you maintain a healthy perspective and not get bogged down with “what if” and “should have”
- Be grateful for all constructive feedback you receive. Someone is taking the time to provide you with learning opportunities, thank them!
- It is up to you what you do with the feedback received, but don’t do “nothing”. This is your opportunity for improvement, take it
- Remember feedback is directed at behaviour and not self
Feedback is part of the communication process but can be honed as a skill and improved on to provide growth and development for the receiver, if given appropriately. In the coaching process, for example, feedback is vital for the coach to help encourage and empower the client. It is just as important for a Coach to read the signs from their client, to gauge progression and learn about their client.
Recognise subtle feedback
Feedback can be provided in many forms. If in a workplace, a simple thumbs up or a smile can provide very positive feedback to a colleague or employee. The words “Well Done” can speak thousands if said with an encouraging smile. An inquisitive eyebrow, a puzzled look can subtly portray confusion and invite another to explain the confusion.
So embrace feedback and be a provider as well as a receiver. Find opportunities to improve your learning experiences and empower others.
Have you ever experienced negative feedback, and how did you deal with it? Have you experienced positive feedback enough in your work? How does it make you feel? Share with us in the comments below…