FEEDBACK Can Help You, Or Someone You Care About, Become A Better Person. Or, Change An Obnoxious Behavior!

Have you ever wanted to tell someone that you wanted them to change a behavior? Of course you have. How did you go about it? Was it successful? Did the person welcome your opinion, say “thank you” and immediately change the undesirable behavior? Probably not! Did that person get defensive? Why? Perhaps you did not deliver the message as sensitively and productively as it could have been. Perhaps you are master as doing this. I doubt it. Let’s see. I am going to offer some tips as to how to offer such constructive criticism, FEEDBACK, to another.

1. IT IS DESCRIPTIVE RATHER THAN EVALUATIVE: Negative comments about another if they come across in a critical judgmental manner make the receiver feel defensive. Thus, s/he will not be open to hearing and possibly changing the behavior communicated in the feedback. When the feedback is descriptive you are saying how you react to the behavior. Thus, the receiver can use it as s/he sees fit. Example: “When you smoke in the car I feel queasy.” As opposed to, “why the hell are you smoking in the car?”

2. IT IS SPECIFIC RATHER THAN GENERAL:  A general statement usually doesn’t get it done. Too easy to “bob and weave” around such a comment, or just get very defensive. Example: “When I was expressing my opinion, you cut me off and loudly expressed yours.” As opposed to, “you always dominate.”

3. IT TAKES INTO ACCOUNT THE NEEDS OF BOTH THE RECEIVER AND GIVER OF FEEDBACK: Communication involves two people. If the message giver is the only beneficiary of the feedback it will not go well. The message hopefully is designed to benefit each person.

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 s/he has no control.

5. IT IS SOLICITED RATHER THAN IMPOSED: Preferably the intended receiver asks for feedback. Often, however, s/he does not do that. In such a case it is certainly appropriate for the giver to respectfully ask if s/he can offer some feedback. There are cases, however, when the receiver is disinclined to receive feedback, and the issue is important to the giver, that the giver may make his or her feedback – respectfully. And, perhaps, then run!

6. IT IS WELL-TIMED: This is a frequent mistake that givers of feedback make. Timing is crucial oftentimes. The mood of the receiver at a given time; what the receiver is doing at the time that the giver wants to give feedback; other people around, etc… are factors relative to feedback being successful.

7. IT IS CHECKED TO INSURE CLEAR COMMUNICATION: A way to do that is for the giver to ask the receiver to rephrase what he or she just heard. Such a rephrasing might help the giver to further clarify the intended message.

Feedback is a way of giving help to another to change an undesirable behavior. It is not meant to be given in a mean spirited or one up attempt. It is sincere, genuine, and hopefully kind.

Respected Reader, can you think of a person or two, or three, or … that you would like to give some feedback to? On the flip side, do you think you are open to constructive feedback from others? Feedback can be a valuable win-win communication with improvement in behavior, and perhaps the relationship, if done with tact using the above noted recommendations. Hope they help!

“The unexamined life is not worth living”    Socrates

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