Do you give feedback?

Feedback – we all know we should welcome it and yet many of us also dread receiving it.

Feedback has layers that need to be considered if we want to improve our ability to give, or receive, feedback.

This post is about giving feedback.  A future post will talk about receiving feedback.

When was the last time you gave someone feedback? What were you hoping to achieve by giving the feedback? Was the feedback positive or negative? How did the other person receive the feedback?

Now consider do you offer feedback more then you ask for it? Many of us tend to offer feedback more than we like to receive it.

My favourite workshop facilitator of all time is Dr Marilyn Atkinson from Erickson International, Canada. She once said that feedback says a lot more about the giver than it ever does about the receiver.

Often when we give feedback we do so believing that we know a better way something can be done, or we have think we have knowledge and/or experience that will help someone else work out a problem they have.

Many times we give feedback without it ever being asked for. Think about the last time you offered someone tips, or advice. Did they seek your feedback or did you offer it up? Our intention for giving feedback can be good. However, intention is only a small part of the issue, complicated by the fact that our intention is not always positive (if we are honest with ourselves).

Sometimes when I work with a client, especially if I’m doing Conflict Management Coaching they will want another person to have feedback because they think the other person needs to learn a lesson. When we are frustrated, especially if we believe another person has gone about something in a way that we perceive as incompetent, or plain wrong, we think our feedback will teach them something. The problem with this is that there is the (not so insignificant) issue of interpretation.

The so called ‘lesson’ learnt is likely to be very different from the one the giver intended. Wanting another person to take on our feedback because it’s good for them definitely says more about us than it does about the receiver (as per Marilyn Atkinson’s point)

So what if anything can we say about giving feedback?

4 W plus H is relevant here. What, When, Who , Why and How.

The key elements in any feedback situation are:

  • Content of the feedback (the what)
  • Relationship between the giver and receiver, including the power dynamic within the relationship
  • Timing and style of the delivery (how/when/where)
  • Purpose (the why)

All of these need consideration when we are giving feedback. Mostly we don’t stop to consider them and that’s why our feedback misses the mark, or creates a dynamic we didn’t intend.

This post scratches the surface on a complex topic and has only really asked the reader to think about the why element.

Some great books to read on this topic are Doug Stone and Sheila Heen’s (2014) Thanks For The Feedback and Georgia Murch’s (2016) Fixing Feedback

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Maryanne Martin