Principles of giving effective feedback

 

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Feedback is a tool used permanently, regardless of the field, both in personal life and professional life. We will learn together three types of feedback, how to use feedback to have results and how not to use it so that it does not turn into a boomerang that can turn against us.

Giving feedback in a professional manner leads to improved behavior of people with whom we are working with, will generate effective communication regardless of the position we give it (manager, employee, colleague, spouse, parent, business partner).

Do you know how to give an effective feedback?

Feedback should be accessible, clear, legible and unambiguous. It is important to make sure your feedback is fair and honest, and not overly positive or negative. Remember to include positive feedback on points to continue, as well as those to improve.

There are 3 types of feedback:

  1. evaluative feedback (assesses)
  2. prescriptive feedback (gives advice)
  3. descriptive feedback (describes authentic feedback)

Evaluative feedback does not generate the best results. He is interpreted, rightly, especially when it’s negative, as malice or as personal attack. Evaluative feedback is welcomed only when positive, if negative, very rarely will improve any behavior and by the definition will not lead to stability and balance.

Prescriptive feedback does not provide accurate information. The person using this type of feedback will not say what the subject did but rather what it should do. This feedback is sometimes inconsistent, since it does not describe exactly what happens, but what should happen. It’s easy to give advices, this is what will think the person receiving this type of feedback and likely will close itself. It can also be well received but only when asked for.

Descriptive feedback is really the only one that corresponds to the notion of genuine feedback. It brings major improvements if offered right. Descriptive feedback generates outstanding results and reduce defensive reaction from the person you communicate with!

 We must remember that whether if we create teams, train people or we want to provide feedback to a colleague, if we want remarkable results then we have to rely on descriptive feedback. In the everyday life we use this term in a much broader sense. We only have to remember that beyond categorizations or disputes, if we want remarkable improvements we must offer descriptive feedback, it has the following characteristics:

  • No value judgments
  • It is specific
  • It is well targeted
  • It is usually requested
  • It is well-intentioned
  • It is applicable
  • It is realistic
  • Brings improvements

If you want to understand how you should give effective and constructive feedback it is good to read further. It will help you provide feedback and understand the results. It is important to understand that there are different types of feedback, and in certain cases some are more effective than others. This does not mean that you should never offer advices or not assess when appropriate. You first have to distinguish properly and provide authentic feedback (descriptive). You’ll be surprised of the results!


Most of the time we think we give feedback when we expose an opinion about something. So far so good. When someone exposes his opinion, telling us if we have done something wrong or wright, that’s no feedback. Here’s an example:

    QUESTION: What do you think about this shirt?
    WRONG ANSWER: I think you made a good choice!

Apparently we have feedback. Our interlocutor tells us his opinion on the shirt! In fact he tells us what he thinks about the the man who chose and bought the shirt !

Take another example:

QUESTION: What do you think about this course?

R1: I think it could have been done better!
R2: This is a course that addresses advanced learners!
R3: I will recommend it to others!
R4: I find that the trainer did a great job!

None of the four answers above could be considered feedback! In the following lines I will explain why!

To understand what the feedback is not let’s think for a moment what is the purpose of the feedback. Feedback is aimed at maintaining a certain balance, a response to a particular question, it should not be a reaction to what triggered the effect! Feedback means to provide an effective response to others, to tell them exactly what bothers us, affects us or what we want others to do. We must do this without harming the other person, minimising their defense and make them understand that what bothers us is not the person but their behaviour.

When you want to provide feedback efficiently you can follow four simple steps:

 

  1. Notice what the person says and does (I noticed that )
  2. Describe without judging what you saw (I saw that, A, B, C, )
  3. Describe feelings / thoughts related to your observed behavior (I felt that )
  4. Describe the impact it had over you (I liked it, I didn’t loved it, It discouraged me, It was motivational etc …)

Perhaps at this moment things are not quite clear and you wonder: “Eventually what is this feedback?” Or “What is not this feedback?” We begin with the second question:

Feedback is not an advice!

The biggest mistake that can be made. Many of us believe that when we give advices it counts as feedback ! It’s true, we love to give advices. Very nice! But we must understand that this is not feedback. Here’s an example:

QUESTION: What do you think about this book?
WRONG ANSWER: I think you should write it again!
Feedback: I found the book incomplete, I could not understand it!

QUESTION: How do you find this car?
WRONG ANSWER: I think you should still try other options!
Feedback: Quality price ratio does not seem to be a good one. It does not seem so beautiful!

     Or

     QUESTION: How do you find this approach?
     WRONG ANSWER: If I were you I would not have done that! I’d rather start with ….
Feedback: This approach seems effective!

All of the above answers are not feedbacks, but tips and nothing more! We can say that indirectly we told what we think. Still, feedback is not telling indirectly our opinion about something, but should describe what we felt about that thing or about that action. This is the first sin of feedback, namely to give advices. There is an old saying: Never give advices to people that don’t ask for! You must have the ability to describe what you think about that thing, what you feel about, and definitely not what should that person do. If your companion asks for an advice or how you have reacted if you were in his sittuation, only then you should advise him.

For an individual, nothing is more unpleasant than to receive advice when he wanted to receive feedback!

Other exemples:

     QUESTION: What do you think about this picture?
WRONG ANSWER: Probably the artist is quite young!
Feedback: I love this picture, it makes me joyful!

Or

QUESTION: How do you find this evaluation report?
WRONG ANSWER: I think you did your best!
Feedback: It seems to me as objective and well structured!

It’s true, it will be hard to resist these temptations to look behind the phenomenon, but feedback is about the reaction to phenomenon. Think for just a moment, the one who asked something, he asked about his intention, what prompted him to do a certain thing. Review the questions and you’ll see how things are.

Feedback is neither criticism nor praise!

If you want to criticize someone you can do this peacefully, but never console yourself with the thought that you only gave feedback. Criticism and praise are two very common phenomena and should not be confused with feedback. Let‘s take some examples:

Suppose someone had to hand over a report two days ago

WRONG ANSWER: You had to bring this report two days ago!
Feedback: I have waited for your report two days ago.

Or when someone speaks in a high tone:

WRONG ANSWER: You’re a jerk, you don’t care what others say!
Feedback: When you talk on this tone I fail to understand what you’re saying.

You can tell very easily that you will not achieve the desired effect by providing the wrong answer above, on the contrary, things will get worse quickly!

Feedback finesse lies in the difference between the person and action. Paradoxically, this confusion is often, although these are two totally different things. Therefore, the feedback must be the answer to a behavior not to a person that has that specific behaviour. Namely, if you don’t like someone’s car feedback doesn’t mean that its owner has a bad taste, but that is not your taste!

In other words, when you describe a state (of anger, regret, delight, annoyance, etc.) your partner will have a precise vision of what you feel. Once he received this response it’s his decision of what to do next. You can even decide together what should be done, but the phenomenon called “Feedbackends here.

Very important to mention at the end of this article is that when you get feedback just say “Thank you”. You should neither argue or contradict nor give feedback to feedback!

I hope that in the future you will have good results due to the understanding of the three types of feedback.

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