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Principles of giving effective feedback

Whether you are giving formal or informal feedback, there are a number of basic principles to keep in mind.

  1. Give feedback only when asked to do so or when your offer is accepted.

  2. Give feedback as soon after the event as possible.

  3. Focus on the positive.

  4. Feedback needs to be given privately wherever possible, especially more negative feedback.

  5. Feedback needs to be part of the overall communication process and ‘developmental dialogue’. Use skills such as rapport or mirroring, developing respect and trust with the learner.

  6. Stay in the ‘here and now’, don’t bring up old concerns or previous mistakes, unless this is to highlight a pattern of behaviours.

  7. Focus on behaviours that can be changed, not personality traits.

  8. Talk about and describe specific behaviours, giving examples where possible and do not evaluate or assume motives.

  9. Use ‘I’ and give your experience of the behaviour  (‘When you said…, I thought that you were…’).

  10. When giving negative feedback, suggest alternative behaviours.

  11. Feedback is for the recipient, not the giver – be sensitive to the impact of your message.

  12. Consider the content of the message, the process of giving feedback and the congruence between your verbal and non-verbal messages.

  13. Encourage reflection. This will involve  posing open questions such as:

    (a) Did it go as planned? If not why not?

    (b) If you were doing it again what would you do the same next time and what would you do differently? Why?

    (c) How did you feel during the session? How would you feel about doing it again?

    (d) How do you think the patient felt? What makes you think that?

    (e) What did you learn from this session?

  14. Be clear about what you are giving feedback on and link this to the learner’s overall professional development and/or intended programme outcomes.

  15. Do not overload – identify two or three key messages that you summarise at the end.

Emphasising that responding to the senders’ communication is vital and that feedback is fundamental to effective communication, Parsloe (1995) suggests that: ‘Communication is a two-way process that leads to appropriate action… in the context of developing competence, it is not an exaggeration to describe feedback as “the fuel that drives improved performance”.’

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