Why is it tough? How can it work better?
By Marcia Potter, President, SynTactSolutions, Inc.
Giving and receiving feedback is an extremely powerful interpersonal dynamic.
So powerful in fact,
that it can literally break relationships or build enduring trust. Receiving feedback is an essential part of understanding how you operate in the world. It's the window through which you can view how others experience and receive your contributions, the expression of your ideas, skills and experience, and value your input or output. Feedback gives you clues about the behaviors you choose and the sensitivity you demonstrate in your dealings with others. Giving feedback is equally critical to how you operate -- it's your means of having influence, being heard, and expressing your needs and expectations. Delivering feedback is a means by which you can describe how you are experiencing others and the world around you.
We find people giving or receiving feedback in ways that call the message and the meaning into question. The four most common feedback interactions are:
- in association with performance appraisals
- to communicate something not done well or to expectations
- to communicate excellence, satisfaction or something done beyond expectations
- when someone seeks to know how well he or she has achieved a result.
If feedback is so powerful and important
why is it so difficult to give and to receive? Because there is such a fine line between the potential to help or to harm. The delicate balance between help and harm primarily rests with the feedback provider. Depending on the timing and the setting for giving or receiving feedback the persons involved may derive little if any benefit from the interaction. Therefore, the setting and the timing are both important.
In our practice we have witnessed
and worked to repair the end result of feedback gone awry. We know that there are common "traps" people fall into whether they are on the giving or the receiving end of feedback. Some of these traps occur when feedback is:
- Given without being requested and in hit or miss fashion
- Based on emotion and not on observation and/or fact
- Indirect, masked, or given without explanation
- Not contracted for up front and therefore not planned
- Disregarded because of perceptions about intent, method or timing
- Just plain not wanted.
How can one develop essential skills needed
to both give and receive feedback? Like any other skill that is developed over time, the art of giving and receiving feedback takes practice. The table represents essential skills and behaviors for both the giver and the receiver.