The Fine Art of Feedback

In her book “>Creating a Life Together” by Diana Christian, in chapter 17 “Communication, Process and Dealing with Conflict” is a section “The Fine Art of Offering Feedback” that provides a concise summary on the issues we overlook in giving and receiving feedback.

Offering feedback is not an attempt to assess or guess or criticize the person’s intentions or motives.” (Christian, pg 210) Some might think what else is there? Do we instinctively turn feedback into (destructive) criticism? If so, there are strategies to consider:

  1. The right way to give feedback. What are the goals and development of effective feedback
  2. How do we learn to do it. This involves working with habits.
  3. The fine art of receiving feedback starting with the book  >Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. There are many aspects of human communication involving feedback protocols resembling “>handshake protocols” of communicating devices.

  1. Giving Feedback

Ms. Christian (pg 210) made it clear we need to check our motives for offering feedback first. I think this involves triggering a healthy habit of metacognition or mindfulness at all times when dealing with others so that we can monitor our thoughts without judgement to make a pass on verbalizing others needing to change. When its apparent our motives are to change others behavior, we usually trigger defenses and push back because change has to come from the self and not from others perceived meddling in our character.

The right way can start as changing “you” in your feedback to “your actions” and “me” as well as adopting a neutral tone to avoid sending cross messages in nonverbal communication. Instead of referring to the person, reverse the arrow back to how their actions affects us. This does not tell them what to do but empowers them to take responsibility for their own changes. This takes the teeth out of defensive responses. “People don’t resist change itself as much as being changed.” 

“How you say it has everything to do with how feedback will be received. It requires all the best communication skills we can muster – using neutral language, describing what the person actually did…using feeling words rather than blame words.”  

2. Working with Habits

On habits how do we work with daily habits to get the results we want. What we do daily is the strongest influence weekly. What we do weekly goes monthly… you get the picture. For more on habits see: >Atomic Habits.

3. Receiving Feedback

Both giving and receiving feedback embody principles of nonviolent communication, as Ms. Christian referred to. “If violent means acting in ways that result in hurt or harm, then much of how we communicate could indeed be called ‘violent’ communication.” (Rosenberg, front cover) The best book on nonviolent communication is: >Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships. See also the web page >Nonviolent Communication.

As mentioned above, computer handshake protocols ensure give and take “handshake” sequences to ensure both sides are giving and receiving data in a orderly, structured manner eliminating static disruptions of miscommunication. In the same way, nonviolent human communication reduces miscommunication and distraction in conveying the true meanings we want to convey in our words.

There are ways of receiving critical feedback which can prevent it from escalating into in a cycle of miscommunication and nonverbal abuse. Even though its common we receive projections from others issues there may be a “kernel of truth” that triggered the feedback. The key is to filter out the static data to see if there really is something there for us. This requires a cool head mindful mindset for what might be important about the feedback. So there are two strategies: “listening for the kernel of truth” and “finding ways to check it out objectively.” (Christian, pg 211)

Rosenberg summarizes the nonviolent communication process (NVC) as a 4 part progression through observations, feelings, needs and requests for both the giver and receiver of feedback without demands. (Rosenberg, pg 231). This is the sequence of stages that many mediators use for conflict resolution.

Links on Feedback


constructive feedback in meetings teams site:edu | site:org – Google Search

Give Your Team More-Effective Positive Feedback

How to Provide Effective Feedback to Project Team Members

Why Feedback Rarely Does What It’s Meant To

How to Listen and Ask Questions for Effective Teamwork

Top 10 Feedback Quotes - BrainyQuote