We have been on the giving and receiving end of feedback recently and that has inspired us to think a bit more about this artful communication process. How can we give feedback that people can actually hear, and even potentially use as a part of their learning process?
A couple of questions come to mind when thinking about this often delicate transaction: First of all, why am I giving this feedback? What are my motivations? Is it to help the person do something differently, to improve a process, to establish myself as an expert in the area, to register my reaction to some behaviour? Or a combination of these things? How close can you come to the core reason for giving the feedback in the first place, and can that help you package your feedback in a way that helps the person understand your motivations, and therefore make your feedback welcome?
The second question is how can I give my feedback? We asked this question to our group of trainee facilitators two weeks ago during our course. Many responses came up, and fundamental to the means they picked (writing, orally, face-to-face, etc.) was the question of trusting the giver to provide the feedback in a way that was appreciative and balanced (so what worked and what could be different).
Ultimately, the best result of giving feedback is that the relationship between you and the recipient is ever better than it was before. After all, you care enough about her/him (the process, the work, your relationship) to think carefully and share your reflections, and genuinely work together towards constant improvement. Think about the last time you gave someone feedback, would you say that your relationship is even better now? If not, then you could have had a communication misfire. Thankfully, feedback is not necessarily a one-off event, if you really want to help, think about it and try again.