The Psychology of Feedback

Posted by: Asa Don Brown on octobre 13, 2011 12:29 pm

The challenge of providing feedback is knowing exactly what to say and how to say it. Constructive feedback can be either positive or negative.  Either way, constructive feedback should always be positively influential even if the message is critical. 

When a parent or teacher offers feedback, it should always offer a message of hope, inspiration, and positive motivation.   A majority of society has probably experienced negative criticism without a positive conclusion. 

Why offer something positive? When an individual receives a negative critique it is frequently received from a judgmental perspective.  Youth especially receive constructive feedback as a putdown, rather than as a motivational source.  Therefore, it is important that parents and teachers reassure the child of their goodness, potential, favorability, and capability. 

Parents and teachers should aim to provide feedback that is straightforward, direct, to the point, and constructive in nature.  Feedback should not be destructive.  It should not have a tone of superiority or  condemnation. 

Avoid offering mixed messages such as: 

             Amanda, you have an ability to be a good student, but…

            Tyler, you have done so well in class, but…

When parents and teachers use words such as but, they are essentially saying that the positive feedback has little meaning. If you are going to offer positive feedback, do not offer a but. Likewise, if you are going to offer negative feedback be certain to clarify how the individual can improve or make positive changes.  As always, complete all conversations with positive feedback.

Be straightforward with your messages.  Get to the point!  Do not blame, judge, condemn, or chastise. The benefit to rebuking or reprimanding has no value.  Moreover, judgmental spirits push people away, rather than pulling them towards you.  If you want to positively influence another, you most choose words that are positively influential.

Everyone deserves positive feedback, including parents, teachers, staff, and students. Sadly, it is seldom that an individual will receive positive feedback, because we are less impressed by one’s achievements than we are alerted to their failures. 

Praise should not be reserved for younger children. Even the eldest of persons have a right and need to receive praise.  We frequently assume that a young child should receive a smiley-face, but rarely consider offering an older youth the same sort of encouragement. 

When offering feedback, think upon the following: 

             Will the feedback being offered provide words of encouragement and direction?

             Can the feedback improve a child’s abilities?

             What are the overall benefits of the feedback being offered?

Always follow-up constructive criticism, with positive feedback. We have all known someone who offers constructive feedback that is negative, but ceases with this form of feedback. 

We all need an opportunity to respond to feedback, without interruption or being told that we are back-talking.  Allow the receiver of the feedback a time to reflect, to respond, and digest the feedback.  Do not expect that everyone will have an immediate response.  Do not expect that the feedback will cause an epiphany or prove a life-changing experience.

Feedback should be about illuminating a positive or negative action, deed, performance, or accomplishment.  It should not be a reflection of someone’s internal goodness.  Feedback should always focus upon an event, a situation, circumstance, but should never be a decree of a person’s value or self-worth.  When correcting children and youth, be certain that you are focusing upon a good or bad of an event, circumstance, accomplishment, performance, deed, or action such as:

            Jane, I am proud of you because… 

            Tom, your recent marks have been lowered than expected, let’s work towards improving them.

Parents and teachers who delay communication are merely prolonging the inevitable, which allows for the negative to fester, intensifying an already negative environment.  Moreover, parents and teachers who delay positive feedback are rejecting a child’s right to receiving positive reinforcement and encouragement. 

Lead by example, if you receive constructive feedback from another, whether it is negative or positive; learn from it, use it, and allow it to be source of internal revenue.  Do not allow yourself to identify with any feedback received. For if you do, the negative will surely shrink your perception of self, while the positive will swell your perception of self. For who we are has nothing to do with our accomplishments whether negative or positive.  For our identities, our personal being, has to do with the internal knowledge of our value and goodness.  It is not a summation of successes or our failures. 

When your child is doing well, tell them.  Encourage your child on a daily and frequent basis. Do not reserve positive praise for accomplishments or achievements.  Praise your child in a humble and encouraging way.  Do not use praise as a platform for boosting your own ego.  Effective praise should never be a covert operation to harm another.  Praise and encouragement should always be about an warm expression of approval and admiration.  Ultimately, it should be a blend of your respect and gratitude of another.

Always end every conversation with positively influential communication.  Positive feedback reinforces our worth, value, and self-esteem.  It encourages personal growth and self-reflection.  It reinforces our knowledge of being or striving towards health and happiness.  It denies the human condition of focusing upon the negative, while reinforcing the positive.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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