How to Offer and Receive Constructive Feedback
Feedback is a specific form of message with special functions. It is the element that ends the communication process, being transmitted “in reverse”. Its type differs from that issued by the sender – for example, the confirmation sent by a subordinate may be very different from the order issued by his manager (written or verbal).
Through feedback, the sender checks if the receiver understood correctly or filtered the message.
Depending on how it is produced, feedback is:
• direct (immediately);
• indirect (delayed).
In another classification, feedback can be of two kinds:
• positive, strengthening or amplifying the initial signal and reaching a new balance;
• negative, used for self-correction and to maintain the existing balance.
In the case of psychodynamic systems, the definition becomes more nuanced: feedback is a description of another person’s behaviour and the cognitive or emotional reaction to it.
Feedback can and should be a way to help a person to become more effective.
Its power comes from the fact that it generates the recovery or maintenance of a good state or even the change of a behaviour.
Entering the feedback loop can only be done as a result of a request or after accepting an offer and checking the availability of the necessary resources (time, attention, emotional and cognitive state, etc.).
Constructive feedback aims to provide useful, honest and timely comments and suggestions that have a positive effect, leading to better processes, results or behaviours. It is useful and beneficial when the information provided:
• brings encouragement and support;
• suggests corrective measures;
• proposes directions for action.
Constructive feedback refers to the observed action, its (identified) consequences and the reactions of the observer.
It has value when it is offered on time, in order to improve the existing situation. It is specific to the problem, oriented towards solutions and actions. It is also objective, supportive, motivating.
Good constructive feedback is clear, respectful, refers to behaviour and not to the person. It is useful, adapted to the receiver’s ability to understand and indicates possible changes.
Ideally, it is built for moderation, containing a positive component, to encourage a part of the targeted behaviour and a negative one, to adapt in order to obtain a different result.
How to provide constructive feedback:
1. Offer it following a request or after accepting an offer, as soon as possible after checking the receiver’s availability.
2. State the purpose, context and issue to which the feedback relates.
3. Give the specific details (concrete, as numerical as possible).
4. Describe the objective and / or subjective impact of the facts, at the cognitive and / or emotional level.
5. Check the understanding of the message and the willingness to initiate the necessary actions.
6. State it:
- in a descriptive and non-evaluative manner;
- in your own name (“I …”);
- directly and honestly;
- without mixed or contradictory messages (clearly specify what is positive and what needs to be changed).
How to receive constructive feedback:
1. Listen actively. If necessary, request clarifications.
2. Signal the reception and understanding of the content, even if it does not correspond to your own opinion. No explanations or justifications are given; no one’s own point of view or mode of action is defended.
3. Indicate how the information received can be used or a new meeting can be proposed to determine how it will be used.
4. At the end, be grateful for it. No further arguments or comments are necessary, no feedback-to-feedback.
- Anne Sugar, Author – ”How to give positive feedback when it doesn’t feel natural”
- Manual for the course Human Resources Inspector, Author Ane-Mary Ormenișan (Project: “Training of employees involved in management activities and human resources through integrated programs – INSTRUCT -SV”, ID: 118136, contract no. POCU / 227/3/8 / 118136)