Principles of Giving Feedback
Source: Coalition of Essential Schools
Constructive feedback is indispensable to productive collaboration. Positive feedback is easy to give and to receive; when the response highlights a need to improve it is harder to say and much harder to hear. When it is done properly, feedback is a very specific kind of communication: it focuses on sharing with another person the impact of their behavior and has as its purpose helping that person become more effective. Feedback is most useful when it is audible, credible, and actionable. Following the guidelines below will help you achieve that goal.
1. Give it with care. To be useful, feedback requires the giver to want to help, not hurt, the other person.
2. Let the recipient invite it. Feedback is most effective when the receiver has invited the comments. Doing so indicates that the receiver is ready to hear the feedback and gives that person an opportunity to specify areas of interest and concern.
3. Be specific. Good feedback deals clearly with particular incidents and behavior. Making vague or woolly statements is of little value. The most helpful feedback is concrete and covers the area of interest specified by the receiver.
4. Include feelings. Effective feedback requires more than a simple statement of observed behaviors. It is important to express how you felt so the receiver can judge the full impact of the behavior being discussed. For example, you might say, "When you come late to meetings, I feel angry and frustrated because..."
5. Avoid evaluative judgments. The most useful feedback describes behaviors without value labels such as "irresponsible," "unprofessional," or even "good" and "bad." If the recipient asks you to make a judgment, be sure to state clearly that this is your opinion.
6. Speak for yourself. When giving feedback, be sure to discuss only things you have witnessed. Do not refer to absent or anonymous people (e.g. "A lot of people didn't like it...")
7. Pick an appropriate time and place. The most useful feedback is given at a time and in a place that make it easy for the receiver to hear it, e.g. away from other people and distractions. It should also be given sufficiently close to the particular event being discussed for the event to be fresh in the mind.
8. Make the feedback readily actionable. To be most useful, feedback should concern behavior that can be changed by the receiver. Feedback concerning matters outside the control of the receiver is less useful and often causes resentment.
Adapted from Improving Work Groups: A Practical Manual for Team Building by Dave Francis and Don Young (University Associates, 1979) and The Team Handbook by Peter Scholtes et al. (Joiner Associates, 1988). revised 6/96
Giving Feedback: Summary
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