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Giving feedback

24 February, 2015 - 17:30

Many are not aware that giving successful feedback is affected by more than just the words used to communicate. Words used to tell ideas are only “7 per cent of your communication, your tone of voice comes out to 38 per cent and your gestures are equivalent to 55 per cent of your total communication” (Hathaway). As a result, the effectiveness of communication is related to how well one mirrors the culture and behaviors of the person to which one is talking. Matching a person’s voice tone, tempo, body posture, movements, and gestures creates a feedback environment where the ideas being communicated are easily understood.

In addition to mirroring the person you are communicating with, there are nine easy steps that can be followed when giving feedback. First, be clear about what you have to say. Second, emphasize the person’s ability to change in a positive way. Third, avoid general comments and clarify pronouns such as “it” and “that” so the person understands exactly what you are attempting to communicate. Fourth, make sure to pick the right time. Fifth, focus on the behavior that can be changed rather than the person or your opinions (Meister). Sixth, be descriptive rather than evaluative. Seventh, own the feedback by using “I statements” that clarify your feelings related to the person you are giving feedback to. Eighth, avoid generalization words such as “all”, “never”, “always” etc.; rather, use more specific examples of the behavior you are trying to change or encourage in the future. Ninth, to ensure mutual understanding after giving feedback, ask the person you are communicating with to restate their understanding of the issue being discussed (McGill & Beatty, 1994).

When thinking about feedback in an organization, it is likely a person will think of performance reviews. One common problem that managers overlook when reviewing performance is remembering that feedback is not all about forms. Traditional performance reviews have checklists, ratings or reports that are used as tools to analyze feedback in the organization. While these forms are useful in documenting and appraising a person’s performance, feedback should not be dictated by the type of form an organization uses. Performance appraisals are often given at benchmarked times throughout the year. As a result, feedback is often delayed. Increased amounts of time that pass between the time the behavior took place and the time the recipient receives the feedback greatly affects the recipients ability to accept the feedback as useful information.

In one’s personal life and in the work environment, it is important to understand that feedback is something that can be asked for. As such, the giver and receiver of feedback are equally accountable for communicating the need and desire to give and receive feedback. Finally, it is important to ask for comment on the way one gives feedback because most humans are great at self-delusion. It is much easier to think that our suggestions are useful to another person than to actually understand how our feedback is being interpreted by another. In the end, feedback is a continuous process which ensures goals and expectations are being met through communication between two parties.