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June 29, 2012
Seek first to understand and then to be understood.
-Stephen R. Covey
The article "Guidelines for Effective Use of Feedback," in the Exchange CD Book, The Art of Leadership, offers advice on giving effective feedback such as....
"Feedback should focus on behavior, not the person. In giving feedback, it is important to focus on what a person does rather than on what the person is. For example, you should say to a teacher, 'You talked considerably during the staff meeting' rather than 'You're a loudmouth.' According to George F. J. Lehner, 'When we talk in terms of personality traits it implies inherited constant qualities difficult, if not impossible, to change. Focusing on behavior implies that it is something related to a specific situation that might be changed.' It is less threatening to a teacher to hear comments about her behavior than about her traits.
"Feedback should focus on observations, not inferences. Observations are what we can see or hear in the behavior of another person. Inferences are interpretations we make based on what we hear or see. Inferences are influenced by the observer's frame of references and attitudes. As such, they are much less likely to be accurate and to be acceptable to the person observed. Inferences are much more likely to cause defensiveness."
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