Feedback is an essential communication skill. It helps you to manage your time; manage your energy; manage your relationships and, manage your resources. Supportive feedback allows you to give your opinion in a clear and precise manner, without causing any undue upset. It is a cornerstone of assertiveness. Supportive feedback can be used to correct behaviour or to encourage a repeat of appropriate behaviour.
It is difficult for people to view their own life objectively. They have so much invested in their life that every decision, thought or action contains some element of bias. Supportive feedback allows you the opportunity to help the other person develop a clearer picture of their life, thoughts and behaviours. When their awareness and understanding are improved in this way, they are in a better position to make clear and effective decisions.
When to use supportive feedback
The following list outlines just some of the many occasions where supportive feedback is appropriate:
- To reinforce positive behaviour
- To inspire or motivate
- To correct inappropriate behaviour
- To challenge negative or unhelpful thinking
- To coach or assist learning and development
- To provide important information
- To encourage creativity and fresh insights
The potential uses for supportive feedback are almost limitless. The most important thing is that the feedback is actually supportive. To achieve this, there are 4 rules of supportive feedback which must be adhered to.
4 Rules of supportive feedback
Following these 4 rules will help to ensure that you feedback is supportive:
1. Adopt a positive approach
When people are doing the right things it is important that you let them know that you are happy with their performance. Don’t wait for something to go wrong before you communicate. State what you are happy with and how you would like to see more of it. Use the positive feedback model on a regular basis and you will see more of the behaviour you desire.
Where you are attempting to correct undesired behaviour, it is important to do so with positive intentions. Remember, most people want to do the right thing. When things go wrong, it is usually a genuine mistake rather than a deliberate choice. Choose to remain supportive rather than critical.
2. Be constructive
The ultimate purpose of supportive feedback is to benefit both parties; either by changing unwanted behaviour or repeating the behaviour you want. If necessary, rehearse your feedback privately and ask yourself if this feedback is going to help the person to improve their performance or, is it just pointing our flaws. To ensure that your feedback is supportive, use the principles of the constructive feedback model.
3. Evaluate the behaviour, not the person
Human beings are fallible. We all make mistakes. It is important to remember that the behaviour does not make the man. If someone does something stupid, that does not make them stupid. Supportive feedback is based on behaviours and facts; not personalisation and assumptions.
4. Respect the other person’s dignity
Supportive feedback aims to encourage the desired behaviour in a manner which does not cause any unnecessary upset or hurt for the recipient of the feedback. When delivering feedback, you must ensure that your method of delivery respects their dignity. Critical factors include:
- Availability of support
Supportive feedback is an essential tool in many areas of life. It allows you to be assertive, stating your thoughts without causing unnecessary discomfort for others. When used appropriately, supportive feedback will help the recipient to learn, develop and improve their performance. It is not done for the sake of being critical; it is done for the benefit of both parties. It is a simple but effective tool which can be used across many areas of your life. Next time you have to deliver feedback; ensure that you adhere to the 4 rules of supportive feedback and you will see great improvements in the results you achieve.