Confrontation / Feedback / Constructive Criticism 

by Judy Harrow

"All confrontation is an invitation to self-examination." 


Always uncomfortable.

Occasionally necessary in any counseling situation. 

Especially relevant to our dual role relationship as teacher (and evaluator of student's process, granter of degrees) and counselor. 

When to confront: 

  1. After a rapport and trust base has been built. (When working with your own coveners, this will be very quick. With referrals and friends of friends, allow a couple of sessions.) 
  2. Only if you are willing to deepen and increase your involvement with this person. Once you offer a confrontation, it becomes your responsibility to help the person to work through its implications, and to implement any decisions that result. 
  3. In normal counseling situations, only when the person is ready and able to hear what you have to say. Sometimes, when it is a problem in the coven, you may not be able to wait for the person's readiness. But, except for emergency, always in private, and if at all possible not when the person is particularly upset, tired, hungry. etc. 

How to confront: 

  1. When possible, be calm and facilitative. Don't confront when you are angry. The idea is to help the person understand and change, not to punish them. 
  2. Only address one or two key areas at a time. More is more than a person can process at once. 
  3. Present observations or data first.

  4. a) Be as specific as possible.
    b) If it is data about the person's behavior: 
    • Try to present it as soon as possible after whatever happened ideally in real-time. 
    • Only offer constructive criticism or feedback about things the person realistically can change. 
    • When possible, offer specific and objective information about how the behavior is affecting other people, or interfering with the person's stated goals. 
    • Distinguish clearly between observations and inferences or interpretations. As always, own your inferences and state all interpretations tentatively. 
    • Use "I messages." 
    • Check that communication was clear. Have the person restate what you said if possible. 
    • Allow time for discussion of what you have presented. It is your responsibility to help the person work it through and take it in. Be prepared to handle a defensive or angry initial reaction. 


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    Contents of this page are copyright © 1996, 1999, 2001 by Judy Harrow.