Communication Skills

Communication

An important communication skill involves giving and receiving feedback, i.e., sharing impressions and reactions of the other person's behavior. The purpose of this learning activity is to suggest guidelines for giving and receiving feedback.

A number of guidelines can help make the giving and receiving of feedback effective. Things usually work best when these guidelines are followed. However, these are only guidelines –– not rules. There may be exceptions to each one. Don't think of these guidelines as the only way to do it. Think, rather, of whether ”the usually guidelines” apply in this particular instance.

Some Guidelines For Giving Feedback

1. READINESS OF THE RECEIVER
Give feedback only when there are clear indications the receiver is ready to be aware of it. If not ready, the receiver will be apt not to hear it or to misinterpret it.

2. DESCRIPTION – NOT INTERPRETIVE
Giving feedback should be like acting as a ”candid camera”. It is a clear report of the facts, rather than your ideas about why things happened or what was meant by them. It is up to the receiver to consider the whys or the meanings or to invite the feedback giver to do this considering him/her.

3. RECENT HAPPENINGS
The closer the feedback is given to the time the event took place the better. When feedback is given immediately, the receiver is most apt to be clear on exactly what is meant. The feelings associated with the event still exist so that this, too, can be part of understanding what the feedback means.

4. APPROPRIATE TIMES
Feedback should be given when there is a good chance it can be used helpfully. It may not be helpful if the receiver feels there is currently other work that demands more attention. Or, critical feedback in front of others may be seen as damaging rather than helpful.

5. NEW THINGS
There is a tendency in giving feedback to say the obvious. Consider whether the things you are reacting to really may be new information for the receiver. Many times the thing which may be helpful new information is not simply a report of what you saw the receiver doing, but rather, the way it caused you to feel or the situation you felt it put you in.

6. CHANGEABLE THINGS
Feedback can lead to improvements only when it is about things which can be changed.

7. NOT DEMAND A CHANGE
The concept of feedback should not be confused with the concept of requesting a person to change. It is up to the receiver to consider whether he/she wishes to attempt a change on the basis of new information. If you wish to include your reaction that you would like to see him change in certain ways, this might be helpful. What is not apt to be helpful is to say, in effect, ”I have told you what's wrong with you, now change!”

8. NOT AN OVERLOAD
When learning how to give feedback, we sometimes tend to overdo it. It's as though we were telling the receiver, ”I just happen to have a list of reactions here and if you'll settle back for a few hours i'll read them off to you.” The receiver replies, ”Wait a minute. I'd prefer you gave them to me one at a time at moments when I can really work on them. I can't handle a long list all at once.”

9. GIVEN TO BEING HELPFUL
You should always consider your own reasons for giving your reactions. Are you trying to be helpful to the receiver? Or, are you really just getting rid of some of your own feelings or using the occasion to try to get the receiver to do something that would be helpful for you? If you are doing more than trying to help the receiver with feedback, you should share your additional reasons so he/she will know better how to understand what you are saying.

10. GIVER SHARES SOMETHING
Giving feedback can sometimes take on the feeling of a ”one–upsmanship” situation. The receiver goes away feeling as though he's ”not as good” as the giver, because it was his/her potential for improvement that was focused upon. The giver may feel in the position of having given a lecture from the lofty pinnacle of some imaginary state of perfection. The exchange often can be kept in better balance by the giver including some of his own feelings and concerns.

Some Guidelines For Receiving Feedback

1. STATE WHAT YOU WANT FEEDBACK ABOUT
Let the giver know specific things about which you would like his/her reactions.

2. CHECK WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD
Check to be sure you understand what the giver is trying to say. Because the topic is your own behavior, you may tend to move towards thinking about the meanings of the feedback before you are sure you are hearing it as it was stated.

3. SHARE YOUR REACTIONS TO THE FEEDBACK
Your own feelings may become so involved that you forgot to share your reactions to his/her feedback with the giver. If he/she goes off not knowing whether or not he/she has been helpful and how you feel toward him/her, he/she may be less apt to give you feedback in the future. The giver needs your reactions about what was helpful and what was not so as to know he/she is improving his/her ability to give you useful feedback.