Merriam-Webster defines feedback as, “helpful information or criticism that is given to someone to say what can be done to improve a performance, product, etc.” I think most people would tend to agree with this definition. However, why doesn’t feedback change behavior? Feedback seems to be a relatively easy concept and we give “feedback” all the time even though I think feedback at times is highly overrated. So how can we improve our feedback to get the desired change?
Here are some features of feedback that we need to think about the next time we give feedback to our children, employees, or our staff.
1. Start with a positive statement.
If you hear a negative comment about your performance as the first statement, how willing are you to listen to the rest of the feedback? Start with the positive first. State what aspect of the performance improved.
2. Be Specific.
When you give feedback, saying “way to go”, “good job”, or “awesome” does not convey what you want the person to know. What specifically did the person do so well? Get descriptive with your feedback. The research shows descriptive labeled praise is better than generic, global praise.
The longer you wait the less meaningful it is. The person you are giving feedback to may not remember all the details. Heck, you may not remember all the details. Besides, praise from your boss, teacher or from a parent is much more rewarding when you did it rather than an afterthought. Immediate feedback is also very helpful during the process rather than after an entire task, homework, chore, assignment is completed.
4. Focus on the Goal.
If you and your child are working towards meeting some goal like a new social skill, riding a bike, or cleaning the room. Feedback should always be goal focused. You always want to give immediate, specific feedback on the behavior your child is working towards.
5. Use REINFORCEMENT!
Our children, staff, employees do a lot. Some of the things we are asking them to do may be boring, extremely difficult, or stressful. Make sure you use REINFORCEMENT. Reinforcement (a break, socializing, public recognition, a toy, etc.) can be anything that increases the likelihood of the behavior to continue in the future. Remember the reinforcer (reward) has to be something that the person you gave feedback to values and will perform again in the future!
6. Graph it!
We often do not do this in our daily lives with our children or our staff. However, if it is important it, should be graphed. A visual representation of the child’s performance helps them understand. We do it in every industry sales goals, quotas, medical field, etc. These are all graphed. Besides it is a great math concept for your children to know and understand! Remember the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words!”