Definition of Feedback
Feedback is a key component of active listening. Feedback can be a corrective mechanism for helping an individual learn how well his or her behavior matches the original intention. It can also be a means of establishing one's identity.
Feedback helps another person to consider changing behavior or altering a message. It is communication with a person (group) that gives that person information about how he or she affects others. Feedback helps an individual stay "on target" and thus better achieve a goal or purpose.
An active listener must be solicited for a response by the sender and must refrain from imposing uninvited responses. Feedback is most useful when the sender asks for response by formulating a question that a listener can answer.
Tips for Providing Feedback
Here are some "tips" that will help you respond appropriately during active listening. In general, you should use language that:
- Objectively describes another person's message, behavior, or situation. Feedback must be specific rather than general.
- Describes how the other person's behavior, message, or situation concretely affects your life. Feedback must be directed toward something the receiver can do to change the situation. Frustration results when a person is reminded of shortcomings over which he or she has no control.
- Describes your own feelings and avoids evaluative language. By describing your own reactions, an individual is free to use, or not use, the feedback you offer. Avoiding evaluative language reduces the likelihood that an individual will react defensively. Feedback must take into account the needs of both the giver and the receiver.
- Describes what you want the other person to do. For example, offer an explanation, change behavior, or provide suggestions for solving a problem.
Other ways of responding appropriately relate to the verbs you choose in your response. For example:
- Use "I want" statements such as: "I want you to do this."
- Effects: Helps clarify what you really want for yourself and for others.
- Use "I feel" statements such as: "I feel X when you do Y."
- Effects: These statements help express feelings without attacking the self-esteem of another person. When expressing irritation, for example, first describe the specific behavior, and then express your feelings.
- Use mixed feeling statements:
- Effects: Mixed feeling statements express positive and negative feelings at the same time. They allow time for an individual to respond after you express the first feeling. Express positive feelings first, give an individual time to respond, and then express negative feelings.
- Use empathic feeling statements:
- Effects: Empathic feeling statements do more than just express your wants and feelings by conveying sensitivity toward others. Avoid using the statement, "I know how you feel," because it denies the other person his or her feelings.
- Use confrontational statements for discrepancies:
- Effects: Confrontation is appropriate when there are discrepancies. For instance, when another person's words contradict what he or she does. Another example would be when there is a conflict between a job description and what is being asked of someone in a job.