"Feedback is a gift." Most of us have heard this common phrase as educators, coaches, and professionals. But if feedback is a gift, why does receiving it sometimes trigger uneasiness, anxiety, and stress?
One of the reasons is feedback can be inherently emotional. Our brains can sometimes view feedback as a precursor to conflict or undeserved judgment, leading us to psychological triggers such as an "Amygdala Hijack" or a situation where we cannot internalize and process information as we usually would.
A strategy to help your feedback be more impactful is considering the end-user or the "receiver" of feedback, similar to how one emphasizes first in design thinking. As a former middle school teacher, I needed to know my students individually and how they best receive feedback. Once I learned the preferences of my students, I was able to quickly adapt my practice and ensure my input could be internalized and impactful to students. This also works equally well with adults. That is, adjusting your delivery to how an adult best receive feedback can make it more impactful in the long run.
So anytime you are preparing to give feedback, consider the following delivery methods you might implement depending on the preference of the end-user and the type of feedback you are messaging:
The FaceTime Method → This method is the most widely used and includes all 1:1 feedback meetings where a coach, teacher, etc., give feedback directly to the end-user. It’s best for people who prefer the details and allows space for questions to ensure clarity and next steps. Also, this method needs adequate time so avoid rushing through these conversations.
The Comment Method → This method considers end users who may need more processing time and reflection space before engaging in a 1:1 conversation. For this method, a leader, coach, teacher, etc., may leave written feedback (think a note, email, etc.) and then offer space at a future time for the receiver of feedback to ask questions or clarify the next steps. The psychological triggers associated with critical feedback could be disarmed by allowing space for the user to digest feedback before jumping into a 1:1 conversation.
The Double Tap Method → This is for quick, in-the-moment feedback that can be easily internalized and acted upon (e.g. quick lesson plan feedback or deliverable tweaks). These moments should require little time, and the end-user should be quickly able to internalize the next steps. This method is excellent for daily check-ins or reminders that do not require a more extended, more in-depth conversation. You also may want to consider jotting down your feedback first, so you can ensure it is efficient and to the point prior to sharing it.
When getting to know your team, it's essential to recognize which method works best for each individual and to do your best to customize feedback to meet their needs. As you are considering how to customize, also note that you can combine methods to increase your effectiveness, e.g., for critical feedback conversations, consider using the comment method and the facetime method to ensure adequate processing time for the individual and space for a 1:1 discussion. Also consider asking - how might you like to receive feedback.
Feedback can remain a "gift" for all stakeholders by using the correct "wrapping paper" for it, and by customize our delivery where appropriate. The more thoughtful feedback we can deliver, the more positive change we can drive!
If you are interested in learning more about feedback delivery related to instructional coaching, check out our Learning Courses to help build capacity at your school or district!
About Chris Edmonds
Chris is passionate about people leadership and utilizing data to drive positive growth in schools. He also loves to read, watch cooking shows, and explore the Philadelphia food scene.