Feedback Guidelines

from Judy's notebook

"Feedback" is a way of helping another person to consider changing their behaviour. It is communication to a person (or a group) which gives that person information about how they affects others. As in a guided missile system, feedback helps an individual keep their behaviour "on target" and thus better achieve their goals. 

Some guidelines for useful feedback: 

  1. It is descriptive rather than evaluative. By describing one's own reaction, it leaves the other person free to use it or to use it as they see fit. By avoiding evaluative language, it reduces the need for the individual to react 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." 
  3. It takes into account the needs of both the receiver and giver of 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. 
  4. It is directed toward behavior which the receiver can do something about. Frustration is only increased when a person is reminded of some short-coming over which they have no control. 
  5. It is solicited, rather than imposed. Feedback is most useful when the receiver has formulated the kind of question which those observing can answer. 
  6. It is well-timed. In general, feedback is most useful at the earliest opportunity after the given behaviour (depending, of course, on the person's readiness to hear it, support available from others, etc.) 
  7. It is checked to insure clear communication. One way of doing this is to have the receiver try to rephrase the feedback received to see if it corresponds to what the sender had in mind. 
  8. When feedback is given in a training group, both giver and receiver have opportunity to check with others in the group the accuracy of the feedback. Is this one person's impression or an impression shared by others? 
Feedback, then, is a way of giving help; it is a corrective mechanism for the individual who wants to learn how well their behaviour matches their intentions; and it is a means for establishing one's identity -- for answering "Who am I?"

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    Contents of this page are as found in Judy's counselling notebook: author and source are unknown.