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An overview of effective and ineffective feedback and a good activity for practicing giving effective feedback.

Print out the 20 sentences below and use the criteria for effective feedback below to debrief after running the activity.

Instructions to participants:

Circle the number of each sentence that you think meets the criteria for helpful feedback (not necessarily perfect, but OK) For the rest of the questions, see if you can figure out the criterion that has been actively violated. Put that criterion in front of the sentence. You may find more than one.




"I'm really confused over what you just said about my work".



"Now I don't want you to get upset about what I'm going to say, but...."



"When you interrupt me like that, it makes me want to stop talking to you".



"It really doesn't matter to me, but a lot of people would really be upset with what you just did".



"You're really overreacting to what I just said".



"Your problem is that you just don't like yourself".



"I have some feedback for you and I've got to give it to you for your own good."



"When you continue to talk so softly, even after I've said I have trouble hearing you, I get frustrated and want to end the conversation".



"You've just offended every person in this group".



"You appear to be frowning, and I'm confused about what just happened."



"From the way you needle people, you must have a need to get even with the world".



"I could work with you more easily if you had a better sense of humour".



"Why do you do things like that?".



"Do you understand what I mean when I say you're sending me a double message?".



"Charlie, how does it make you feel when Tom keeps coming late to meetings?"



"I'm going to be open with you, level with you: I think you're a fathead".



"I wish you'd stop trying to run things around here".



"How do you think it makes me feel when you say things like that?"



"That kind of adolescent behaviour won't get you anywhere around here".



"And another thing.  I'm sick and tired of you calling me "Honey".


Following are 10 criteria for effective feedback. You may not need to concern yourself with all of them and may find yourself focusing on a cluster of 4 or 5 which are problems for you. Also, there is a list of opposites - things we do which are not effective.






Describes the behaviour which led to the feedback- 'You are finishing my sentences for me...'

Uses evaluative / judgmental statements- 'You're being rude'. Or generalised ones- 'you're trying to control the conversation.'


Comes as soon as appropriate after the behaviour - immediately if possible, later if events make that necessary ( something important going on, you need time to cool down etc)

Is delayed, saved up, and dumped. Induces guilt and anger in the receiver, because after time there is not usually anything he can do about it.


Is direct, from sender to receiver

Indirect, ricocheted- Tom, how do you feel when Jim cracks his knuckles? - also known as let's you and him fight


Is owned by the sender, who uses 'I' messages and takes responsibility for his thoughts, feelings, reactions.

Ownership is transferred to 'people', 'the book', 'upper management', etc.


Includes the senders real feelings about the behaviour, insofar as they are relevant to the feedback- 'I get frustrated when I'm trying to make a point and you keep finishing my sentences.'

Feelings are concealed, denied, misrepresented, distorted. One way to do this is to 'transfer ownership'. Another way is to smuggle the feelings into the interaction by being sarcastic, sulking, competing to see who's right, etc.


Is checked for clarity, to see that the receiver fully understands what's being conveyed.

Not checked. Sender either assumes clarity or - fairly often- is not interested in whether receiver understands fully.


Asks relevant questions which seek information, with the receiver knowing why the information is sought and having a clear sense that the sender does not know the answer.

Asks questions which are really statements-'Do you think I am going to let you get away with that?'  or which sound like traps- 'Do you behave that way at home too?'


Specifies consequences of the behaviour - present and/or future- 'If you keep finishing my sentences I won't want to spend much time talking to you in the future'.

Provides vague consequences- 'That kind of behaviour is going to get you into trouble'.  Or specifies no consequences- 'you shouldn't do that'.


Is solicited or at least to some extent desired by the receiver.

Is imposed on the receiver, often for his own good.


Refers to behaviours about which the receiver can do something, if he wants to.

Refers to behaviours over which the receiver has little or no control


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