Giving feedback is one of the most common things we do as parents, spouses and co-workers. When feedback is done well it leads to increased satisfaction, performance and motivation, when not done well it can cause conflict, stress and confusion. As parents one of the best things we can do for our children is to provide both motivational and developmental feedback that contributes to their success.
There are typically two forms of feedback – motivational and developmental. Motivational feedback identifies what was done well and why it was important – the individual receiving the feedback understands the positive impact and how to replicate the behavior or action in the future. Developmental feedback identifies what needs to be improved or changed and why that change is necessary.
Giving feedback can either be a distributing or contributing process. Distributing feedback is a one-way communication process whereby on person provides their viewpoint while contributing feedback is where a discussion occurs and both parties provide input.
Two questions to consider as we give feedback:
- Am I doing it effectively so behavior can be replicated or changed?
- Is my feedback distributing (telling) or contributing (designed to impact behavior)?
A good feedback model is the STAR approach:
- S/T (Situation or Task) – Situation or Task – the behavior, action or task.
- A (Action) – the action taken or not taken
- R (Result) – the result of the action taken or not taken
Emotional vocabulary also gets us in trouble when we give feedback – these are words such as always, never, everybody and nobody. These allness words tend to over exaggerate and cause the other person to be defensive.
Lastly, when participating in feedback conversations, especially developmental feedback, it is not WHAT we say, but often HOW we say it that is important. We need to monitor our word choice, body language and voice tone as they impact our feedback conversations. Research shows, when verbals and nonverbals conflict we instinctively believe nonverbal communication. When we fail to monitor word choice and nonverbal communication we can easily and unintentionally derail feedback conversations.
For example, if our kids do a good job cleaning up the kitchen without us asking and we tell them Thanks – that was awesome! we lose the chance to give feedback in a manner that helps them understand impact. Instead, consider the following response Thanks for cleaning the kitchen (Situation/Task), what I appreciate about this is you did it without me asking (Action), I have a well cleaned kitchen and this helps the whole family have more time to relax tonight (Result).
The same process applies in developmental feedback. When someone fails to meet expectations and we give feedback in the following manner You didn’t do that right OR You never listen to me we put others on the defense and fail to help them meet expectations in the future. Instead, a more effective approach might be We agreed last night you would clean your room (Situation/Task), I noticed it wasn’t done (Action), when you fail to do what we agree there are consequences. Next, STOP and LISTEN to their response and then determine next steps (Action).
I feel like you are not listening to me (Situation/Task/Action), which makes me think what I am saying isn’t important (Result).
When feedback is effective it enhances relationships, is motivational and supports positive behavior. Individuals who give STAR feedback understand the difference between distributing feedback to others and contributing to others through feedback.