The next important goal for your group is to discover the use of constructive feedback in small group interaction. Feedback is reporting to an individual the kind of impressions he is making on you or reporting your reactions to him. Constructive feedback is rarely effectively used on the value of honesty. Children are taught their homes and schools that it is bad to lie about their behavior. Stealing, lying, cheating, and other dishonest acts are denounced in every aspect of life. Yet, all of us are guilty of a great deal of dishonestly in interpersonal relationships all the time. (Since children are often very aware of this it makes the learning of the value of honesty very complex.) We rarely express our honest feelings toward others in home or in school. Often this involves simply avoiding the expression of reactions which we feel would be detrimental to others or ourselves. Often it involves what we call "little white lies" when we tell people something positive or reassuring rather than be direct, honest, or critical.
People often feel threatened by the introduction of feedback exercises. The notion that people will be hurt by criticism is very prevalent. Yet, think of how many people you know who have goo intention but irritate, embarrass, or behave in ways which diminish their effectiveness. The range of operating efficiently and productively in many areas of life is seriously hampered if we never have a chance to become are of our impact on others. Most of us are quite capable of improving our styles of interpersonal communication and becoming much more effective as people-parents, teachers, students, whatever, when we really become aware of our impact on others.
Before going on to an exercise designed to give and receive feedback to others in the group, it is useful to think about destructive versus constructive feedback. Feedback is destructive when it is given only to hurt or to express hostility without any goal of improving the communication between people. it may be also destructive when only derogatory or extremely critical statements are given without any balance or positive evaluation.
Principles of Constructive Use of Feedback
Feedback is useful to a person when:
- It describes what he is doing rather than placing a value on it. Example: "When you yell at me it makes me feel like not talking to you anymore." Rather than: "It's awful of you to yell at me."
- It is specific rather than general.
- It is directed toward behavior which the receiver can do something about.
- It is well-timed.
- it is asked for rather than imposed.
- it is checked to insure clear communication.