Encouragement not feedback
Now I know that encouragement is a form of feedback but for most people when they hear the word feedback what they think of is criticism. And to be fair we all like to put our tuppence in when we see someone do something that we think should be better; myself included. So why encouragement not feedback?
The problem is that what we hope to achieve and what we actually achieve tend to be far removed. Now there are normally two reasons why you give someone feedback, particularly unsolicited feedback. The first, and more charitable, reason is that we actually want them to do better, we want them to improve their skills and the outcomes they get from doing whatever it is that they do.
Great idea just not great in practice
Now this is a great motivation for giving feedback but the problem is that more often than not we don’t actually achieve this. In the first instance if we haven’t been asked for feedback then what we actually do is alienate people. When we do something new, we naturally feel nervous about doing it. We get concerned that we might make a fool of ourselves and damage our reputation and what we are expecting from someone giving us feedback is confirmation that we have done exactly that. Public speaking is a great example: when we first stand in front of a group of people we assume that everyone will think we are rubbish at what we do. If the first thing that you says to someone afterwards is critical then their viewpoint is reinforced. Now people try and cheat by saying something nice to start with and then lay in with the criticism, the problem here is that we only hear the criticism because it reinforces what we were already thinking.
The same is true if we have actually asked people for feedback after the event. So this ultimately has the same effect of reinforcing the negative view that we might have and makes us even more reticent to do that activity again.
Not such a great idea, for anyone
The other reason why people give feedback is to make themselves seem more important, intelligent, generally better than the other person. Now if this is your aim then again you fail, you may make the other person think less of themselves but all they are left thinking of you is resentment. they won’t think of you as a wise teacher, they’ll think of you as an arse because at the end of the day that’s what you are being.
So why encouragement?
So how can you do encouragement whilst at the same time being sincere and actually helping people improve? We have to slightly change our approach to improvement, most people learn to be better at doing something by actually doing it. So our motivation for feedback should be that the person actually wants to do that thing again. In the example of public speaking our aim is that the person wants to speak in public again. This has two benefits: one being that the through preparing to speak again they will learn new things that will help them be better, without you having to say anything specific at all. The other is that once a person has changed their mindset going into an activity the more they are open to suggestions afterwards.
This is where language comes in.
I posted a video on my website a while ago about your ‘but getting in the way’. In it, I talked about how when you use the word ‘but’ in feedback, it negates everything you said before so instead use the word ‘and’ to build upon what someone has done not to demolish what someone has achieved.
So next time you feel tempted to give someone some feedback, think again and think about how you can encourage them instead. Remember it’s about encouragement, not feedback.