Interpersonal Feedback Thoughts


Not all the information about me is known to me. As you and I interact, you will notice things about me of which I am unaware. Often I am not aware of the mannerisms, gestures, facial expressions, vocal inflections, and other behaviors I exhibit as I interact with you. I am certainly not aware of how my behavior affects you, your emotions, and your physical condition. This
information is in my Blind Spot and it is under your control. We can further enlarge the Arena between us if you share this Blind Spot information about me with me. Sharing Blind Spot information is called interpersonal feedback and it is very helpful in improving the free exchange of information and the openness of communications.
When Dr. Timmons introduced the concept of interpersonal feedback to his classes, a student would invariably say something like, "Oh, you mean constructive criticism."  Effective feedback is definitely not constructive criticism. It attends to the somebodiness of another, recognizes the uniqueness of that person, and seeks to enhance the other's sense of self. It attempts to honor a person by giving him information he cannot know without our help. Criticism is often seen as an attack. Feedback, the effective variety, is intended as a gift.
All of us require feedback to find out how we are doing.
           ·         Feedback is my perception and my truth, not fact.
           ·         Feedback is concerned with specific behavior.
           ·         Feedback relates to behaviors under the control of the receiver.
           ·         Feedback can relate to either positive or negative aspects of behavior.
           ·         Feedback is non-judgmental.
           ·         Feedback is not advice.
           ·         Feedback becomes the property of the receiver.

Feedback is my perception and my truth, not necessarily fact. The content of my feedback to you comes from the data I have gathered and passed through my perceptual filters, the inferences I have drawn about what and how you did and said something, and my personal emotional or physical responses to it. I cannot know how others see your behavior. I cannot know how others feel and think about your behavior. I can only know how I perceive what you say and do. This is all I can know and therefore, all I can share. Not only is it inappropriate, it is inaccurate for me to say something like, "When you do this, people don't like it", or "Nobody enjoys someone who does that", or "Everybody knows you shouldn't act that way". How in the world would I know?  Feedback is my "truth", not anyone else's.
Feedback is concerned with specific behavior. How helpful would it be to you if I said, "I like the way you do things around here"? Would you know what I was talking about if I told you, "I get upset with the way you treat people"? You may enjoy hearing the first statement, but wonder to which one of your vast array of behaviors I am referring. The second statement may leave you confused and hurt and guessing what I meant. General feedback is not useful, because you have to infer which behavior or behaviors have caught my attention.  It is more helpful to you if I were to say, "When you gave me that pat on the back just now, I really felt good about myself," or "When you said, 'You don't know what you're talking about', I sensed you were attacking me and I felt very defensive". The more specific, I am the more efective I am in offering you feedback.
Feedback relates to behaviors under the control of the receiver. Examples:  I have a habit of bouncing my leg rapidly which shakes the table and the floor and anything I am connected to. Frequently, I am not aware I am doing this. If someone lets me know it is annoying him, I can stop it. I do not have to bounce my leg. I can control this behavior. It is something I can do something about. But let's say the right-side of your face has a muscular disorder that causes your eye to twitch. You can't do anything about it. You have no control over it. And as much as you would like for it to stop, the twitch does what it wants. I come to you and offer you some feedback, "When your face twitches, I feel uncomfortable." How effective is this feedback? Not very, right? 
Ideally, feedback should concern behaviors people can control. There are times, however, when feedback regarding a behavior someone cannot control can be valuable. To let others know how their behavior impacts you may be useful. For instance, a young woman with a heavy Southern accent cannot control how she talks. She may feel very self-conscious about it. If I find her accent charming and attractive, I could dispel some of her uneasiness by sharing my feelings with her.
Feedback can relate to either positive or negative aspects of behavior. Often people believe feedback concerns only the negative aspects and impacts someone's behavior has on us. Obviously, you won't have an opportunity to change the behavior I respond to negatively unless you are aware of how it comes across to me. Without the information, you have no choices. In the same way, you cannot repeat or continue a behavior which I perceive to be very positive unless you know about it. For instance, if a friend of mine noticed that I picked up my plate after I finished eating when I visited their home and they, "I really appreciate it [or don't appreciate it] when you pick up your plate and bring it to the sink. You can come over anytime." Do you think I pick up my plate when I'm in his home?  If they don't appreciate it, I won't do it next time.  IF there is a next time!
Feedback is non-judgmental. It doesn't suggest that a behavior is a stupid, rotten, no good, and evil thing to do. It doesn't say that a behavior is the most wonderful, intelligent, and kind-hearted thing to do. Effective feedback does not include a value judgement. Rather, my feedback needs to avoid the rightness and wrongness issue and should focus on simply describing what the behavior appeared to be, to bring some truth to the light. Few people appreciate judgmental comments...evaluative statements often breed defensiveness.
Feedback is not advice. In order for me to give you good advice, I need to know all of your thought's and feelings. I would have to have experienced your experiences. I'd have to be able to read your mind. I would need to know all the issues involved in the situation about which I'm to share my vast and authoritative knowledge. And once I give you this valuable input, I would want you to agree to give me 100% of the credit if the advice works, but for you to accept all the blame if it doesn't. This is advice.
Feedback is not effective if it comes across as advice. It doesn't not suggest you should do this or quit doing that. It is simply sharing something I see.  Perhaps you know it already or perhaps you don't.
Feedback becomes the property of the receiver. Effective feedback does not imply that you should do something with the information I have given you. When I offer you feedback, I should not expect you to change your behavior for me. The goal of feedback is to enlarge the Arena between us, not change your behavior. You may change your behavior, but that is up to you.
Feedback is like a gift. Once the gift is given, the receiver can do with the gift as he or she pleases. I, the giver, cannot demand that you do this or that with it. The gift is no longer mine.
Learning about our onion skins and possible zig zags are some of our deepest needs.