Feedback is very important in all aspects of our lives. We deal with feedback at work, in school, in relationships, from parents, etc. Feedback can be positive or negative, but most importantly, it should be constructive.
As individuals, we grow and learn from constructive feedback. It’s within the scope of “productive” communication and it makes a difference in our lives! Having the ability to give and receive effective feedback and doing it well can (and will!) have a positive impact on those around you.
Positive Reinforcement through Feedback:
When providing positive reinforcement, we often tell people things like “you did awesome!” or “good job!” and then we pat ourselves on the back for being supportive. But take a minute to reflect—is this being truly supportive?
The problem is not the phrase, it’s the way we use it! When we go into autopilot mode and say these phrases over and over again, they lose their meaning and it becomes hard to find value in it. After all, shouldn’t it be our minimal expectation to do a “good job” in all pursuits?
When it comes to giving feedback, I challenge you to be behavior-driven. Start to call out the positive behaviors you see because this supports positive reinforcement!
Example (work situation): You give feedback to an employee for greeting customers consistently with a smile.
Vague feedback: “Hey, good job this morning. You are awesome!” (What are they awesome at? What do you think they did a good job at?)
Behavior-driven feedback: “I loved how you welcomed each customer with a smile this morning. You are awesome at creating a welcoming environment!”
Can you see the difference? Which feedback would you prefer to receive?
Delivering Constructive Feedback: Stay Objective!
How we present our feedback is just as important as what we have to say. We often provide our feedback from an emotional standpoint. And while it's natural to connect to others on a emotional level, constructive feedback is best served objectively. Allowing your emotions to guide your feedback could derail your whole message and create a defensive environment rather than an environment of acceptance and self-realization.
Try this instead: When giving feedback to others, remember why you're giving it (to help) and focus on the facts (not the feelings).
Example (parent-child situation): You ask your son to help with the dishes. He roll his eyes and starts to slam the dishes down as he puts them away.
Emotional feedback: “Why are you being so rude?! All I asked you to do was help with the dishes! What is wrong with you? You're acting like a spoiled brat!”
This type of reaction immediately makes the receiver feel they need to defend themselves. The child most likely feels attacked and misunderstood and is less likely to be engaged in the situation. At this point, he is not listening nor is he learning. If anything, he is getting the wrong impression about how feedback should be given.
Objective and behavioral feedback: “I saw that you rolled your eyes when I asked you to help put the dishes away. Then you began to slam the dishes on the shelf as you put them away. Can you tell me why you reacted in this manner?”
I know, I know—it seems easier said than done! I am not suggesting you change how you naturally communicate, I am merely advocating you reflect on the behaviors shown and speak to them when providing feedback.
How we give feedback is a learning opportunity of its own.
When providing feedback, be objective and behavior-driven. Connecting the feedback to the behaviors shown allows you to foster productive feedback. Constructive, objective feedback—as opposed to emotional and/or vague feedback—gives the individual receiving the feedback an opportunity to create self-awareness and own their actions!