Seven Rules of Feedback

For most of us, feedback is an unresolved paradox between our head and our heart.
Logically, we embrace the notion that feedback is essential to progress and development, and we desire progress and development.
But emotionally, we don’t like the feeling that we are not as far forward as we hoped we might be.

The result of this unresolved tension is that consciously we plan to take opportunities for receiving feedback, and subconsciously we make choices which delay that from taking place. Essentially, we want to learn, but we resent judgement, and in respect of personal feedback we find it difficult to separate the two.
Those people who seek to provide feedback need to understand this dichotomy in the person they are speaking to if they are to truly provide a valuable service to them.
The seven rules of feedback have been around for a long time and help to provide an environment where it is possible to make feedback as productive as it can be.

1. It is descriptive rather than evaluative

Describe your own reaction, so that the receiver is free to use it or not to use it, as he/she sees fit.  Adding your judgment or ‘opinion’ tends to elicit defensiveness

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 did, 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 towards behaviour which the receiver can do something about

Frustration is only increased when a person is reminded of some shortcoming over which he has no control

5. It is asked for, rather than imposed

Feedback is most useful when the receiver himself has formulated the kind of question which those observing him 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 assure clear communication

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

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