Having followed Norwegian speaker, coach and blogger CecilieTS for a while now, I was not surprised that she yet again has managed to produce an interesting and inspiring blog post. This time about feedback! I graciously asked if she would allow me to translate her post from Norwegian to English and share it with our readers here on www.FriendsOfFeedback.com. And she accepted – enjoy the reading!
It is a brave thing to offer feedback, even when it is positive. To open up, to air your opinions. I am surprised and overwhelmed by how many people who actually dare. Here are some tips on how to both give and receive positive feedback.
This blog post is written for each and every one of you who has been part of giving me the wonderful feedback I have received over the recent months: Through social media, e-mail, sms, phone calls, meetings, greetings at the door, hand-written letters, contracts, requests, and random encounters at the local store, the airport, in the kindergarten. A Facebook thumb, generous words, flowers, and mild reprimands. From clients, participants, analogue/digital friends and the press.
Based on what I have seen and heard over the past year, I think I can firmly say:
Of course, I too meet the kind of people who criticize and just want to put you down. Every week. But who cares, it’s really not worthy of my attention. Sure, it hurts. Sure, I spent a whole day last week regretting my naive behavior towards a person who just wants to see me fail. And yet: These kind of days are so few. Because, basically, people cheer each other on.
As a child I learned that positive feedback made me embarrassed and humble, and it still applies. What is new is that it also gives me inspiration, enthusiasm, and pride. The kind of motivation that makes me endure only 4-5 hours of sleep per night, and that gives me the belief that what I do is important and helpful to others. Thank you! Without this feedback, I would have searched for a different livelihood.
All this positive attention has once again caused me to ponder the phenomenon of feedback. – How do we influence each other? How good are we at giving feedback that makes a difference for the recipient?
The classic feedback is the simple compliment.
When I do communication training with departments or teams, we talk a lot about feedback:
What it does to us, and how to give each other useful feedback.
Feedback is, according to psychologist Guro Øiestad, to communicate back what we see in others. And that others notice and recognize reactions and experiences that we have ourselves.
Positive feedback is great networking: We bond with each other through mutual acceptance.
There are various forms of feedback. The three most common are simple feedback, specific feedback and unspecified feedback.
Simple feedback is the most common form of feedback. We show that we like something/someone, or that we have confidence in someone’s actions. A typical comment would be about someone’s work effort or expertise. Comments like: “You are so good at this” or “You can easily tackle this”. Or a compliment to a friend or colleague: “I like your sweater!” or “You have great taste”.
It’s nice to receive short and concise feedback like this. In limited quantity. Personally, I am very aware of my use of simple feedback, because simple feedback can easily be perceived as shallow and without substance. If the same person often offers this kind of compliments, you can begin to suspect hidden motives. If used too frequently or in the wrong context, the compliments can be regarded as without credibility.
My feedback favourite is specific feedback:
- or justified feedback: To tell someone WHY we like something about the person or their actions. Specific feedback explains WHAT you like about the sweater. With this kind of feedback, your colleague will know what you think, and why. The compliment will quite simply have more substance. “I think you are very skilled, because …”
Specific feedback is a great way to improve people’s awareness of their own competence, as well as awareness of their influence on others. This kind of feedback is often related to behavior and performance, and works really well for building a positive tribal culture in a department or company. Specific feedback is also very efficient in developing people on an individual level, to make them believe in themselves and their own skills.
Specific feedback is definitely my preferred way of giving feedback, especially at work.
Non-specific feedback is independent of behavior and performance. This is unconditional feedback, often reserved for closer relations, including your closest colleagues. An example of this kind of feedback would be: “I am so happy that we work together.”
Non-specific feedback is a statement without the “because”. It is a response that recognizes you, free from requirements to achievement and behavior. It is commonly used at children, to confirm behavior and give them self-esteem. When feedback is completely unconditional, it comes across as a lot more powerful. Unless it’s the boss, who at the summer party pours out an emotional “You are the best employees ever!”
To be at the receiving end of attention is a challenge. When I receive positive and (in my eyes) a lot of attention, I have at times handled it badly. I’m embarrassed, shy, and feel that people have an image of me which I don’t deserve, or which doesn’t match with my own image of myself. But then I remember the one thing that gives me courage to show the joy I feel over praise: The other’s efforts.
The next time you receive a compliment, large or small, remember that when you reject a compliment you also reject the person who gives it. Yes, many of us become embarrassed by positive attention, but remember that someone has spent time, thoughts, feelings – and probably much more energy than you think – to give you feedback. When you respond negatively, you send this signal to the other: “No, you’re wrong”. The ancient Norwegian phenomenon of “no-I-think-you’re-wrong” is not a particularly positive response to someone’s feedback.
What will it take for you to provide more specific and direct feedback?
And what will it take for you to better tackle the feedback you receive?
For more tips on communication:
My website www.ceciliets.no/blogg (in Norwegian)
I also update my Facebook page with everyday tips and tricks on communication and time management, www.facebook.com/ceciliets.no, or you can subscribe to my posts here www.facebook.com/Cecilie.ThunemSaanum
Original text in Norwegian by Cecilie Thunem-Saanum
Translation to English by Hope Mears Østgaard
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