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Blog #8: What About Feedback?

Updated: Jul 1


Feedback is something that most people don't want to hear--but you get it anyway. It can be positive ("Yeah, great job!"), neutral ("Let's try that again"), or negative ("You really blew it that time"). It can be in words, gestures, or facial expressions. It can come from anyone at any time. Nevertheless, it's the part of your life that connects you with others everyday. The secret to feedback is to make it work for you--not against you. The material below will give you a good place to start.....



Definition

Here's a simple definition: "Feedback is the response or reaction to someone’s message" (Business Communication, 2021). Feedback can be verbal ("Good job"), or non-verbal (shaking your head "no"), or both (eye rolls and shrugs when you ask: "Do these pants make me look too fat?"). It can be in a variety of situations from a variety of people. For instance, maybe you're told that you really need a haircut by your parents or your wife. Maybe, your English prof gave you a C" because your term paper was way too short. Or, you could be told by another employee at work to go to the back of the lunch line in the company cafeteria. All of these are responses and reactions to your words or actions. See the Scenarios below for more examples of how feedback permeates your everyday life.



Benefits of Feedback

Receiving and giving clear feedback has many benefits for people both with and without disabilities. For instance, one of the most basic benefits of feedback is that: “Feedback brings people together and creates a healthy communication flow” (Actitime, 2018). Further benefits include: a) the efficient sharing of information; b) promoting a healthy environment; c) facilitating active listening; d) increasing productivity in the workplace and the classroom; e) encouraging creativity; f) increasing self-esteem and closer social relationships; and g) encouraging team-work. Feedback is a key component to effective listening, motivation, improved performance, and continued learning (De Franzo (2015).

This is true for everyone, but how does it apply specifically to people with disabilities? Educators and employers believe that feedback is especially critical to the employment and academic success of those with disabilities. For instance, DeFrietas (n.d., p.2) says: ….holding all employees accountable for their performance and treating employees fairly and consistently leads to opportunities for growth and advancement in the workplace for everyone, which ultimately fulfills the ADA’s purpose of furthering equal employment and opportunities for individuals with disabilities. . . Accurate performance evaluations can lead to performance improvement when employees recognize a disability-related connection and choose to disclose a disability and/or request reasonable accommodation in response to [a] poor performance evaluation.”

This is equally true in the classroom. The National Association of Special Education Teachers (n.d., p.1) asserts that: “Providing the right kind of feedback to students can make a significant difference in their [academic] achievement.”

But, perhaps, no area is more critical for individuals with disabilities than in the area of social relationships--at home, at school, in the community, or in the workplace. For instance, the Learning Disabilities Association underscores this concern when they say that, “Individuals who have learning disabilities may be less observant in their social environment, may misinterpret the social behaviors of others at times, and may not learn as easily from experiences or social “cues” as their friends.” They further explain: The consequences of learning disabilities are rarely confined to school or work. Many areas of life are affected, including . . . family, friends . . . sports, dancing, self-esteem, and self-confidence to handle daily situations” (LDA, n.d., pg. 1). All of these concerns point to the need to use feedback effectively and successfully in every area of adult life, especially if one has an invisible disability like LD or dyslexia.





Scenarios

Scenario A:

Julie’s boss calls her in for a performance evaluation. She says, in general, that Julie's job performance is fine but she makes too many personal phone calls at work. Julie decides to ignore her boss because all she really said was that Julie is doing a good job. Besides, Julie's sister’s baby is due in three weeks. The phone rings and Julie needs to talk to her, so she called her back right away as soon as her boss walked away.

Scenario B:

Eric’s mom continually nags him to put his dirty towels in the laundry basket after he has finished using them. He knew she was mad at him because she was yelling at him again. To shut her out, he put his earbuds back into his ears and concentrated on his video game. She finally got disgusted and slammed the door as she walked away.


Scenario C:

Sally really wants to be on her high school dance team. When she auditions, the Coach tells her that her endurance is low and she should definitely do more cycling and running. Sally starts a program to run at least a mile three times a week. She starts feeling stronger immediately and looks forward to the next time she can audition again. She stops the Coach in the hall and thanks her for her advice.


Scenario D:

Andrew takes his girlfriend Barbara out to a nice restaurant to celebrate Valentine’s Day. However, he continually texts others during the meal. Barbara is getting more and more frustrated with him. She finally says, “Either start paying attention to me or find another girlfriend!” Andrew leans over to give her a kiss and responds, “Don’t worry about it….” They finish their meal without talking to each other.


Scenario E:

Sandra flunked the last three Quizzes in her American History class. When she goes to the college Disability Office to complain about the instructor, her counselor asks her if she is using the notetaker he assigned to her earlier. Sandra says she never contacted the person, as she’s too embarrassed to have someone take notes for her in class. She then demands to drop the class as soon as possible. The counselor asks Sandra to think about it overnight and let him know her decision. Sandra never goes to see him again.



How is Feedback Connected to LD and Dyslexia?

It's interesting that while feedback is a primary way we all communicate with each other, there is little--if any--research or information about the connections between LD or dyslexia and feedback. For instance, Podcast #7 clearly reveals that feedback and listening skills go hand-in-hand. But what if you have problems with listening due to an auditory memory or auditory discrimination skills? Note: This is with the caveat that your actual hearing mechanisms (e.g., auditory nerves, inner ear, etc.) are fine, but you have difficulty decoding or remembering auditory stimuli due to an auditory processing disorder (RIEGNER & Inverse, 2021). One of the key concerns with this type of LD is that folks can't understand or decode speech sounds. Examples are: trying to follow a conversation in a crowded, noisy room; not being able to follow directions, or decoding auditory words or phrases. All of this is critical to effective listening, whether at home, at school, at work, or in the everyday community. (For more information about a Central Auditory Processing Disorder, see the references below.)

Another factor that can plainly play into receiving and giving effective feedback is ADHD. A study by Gabay, Shari-Khateb, and Mendelsohn (2018) clearly showed that individuals with ADHD have major problems with feedback-based learning. Other related areas of concern are: attention to the speaker and the message, impulsivity, and high activity levels. All of these characteristics of ADHD can interfere hearing, understanding, retaining, and responding to feedback. This, in turn, can cause difficulties when trying communicate or listen to others on the job, in class, or with family or friends.

A third area where LD and feedback connect is non-verbal communication. Sometimes feedback is as simple as an approving nod or a shake of the head. We all know how much it means to get a smile of encouragement or having someone move away from us when they become uncomfortable. It is these exact messages that can be confusing, or even inexplicable, to some with a Non-Verbal learning disability or an Executive Functioning disorder. (ADD CITATIONS!!) For people with these types of learning disabilities, going through a performance review at work or collaborating on a group final at school can be confusing and frustrating. They may understand the words, but struggle to follow conversations or de-code feedback, especially in group settings or when more than one person is talking at once. In all of these situations, as those discussed above, accommodations are critical to understanding and giving feedback.


Tips and Tricks about Feedback

Tip #1: Figuring Out What Feedback Is: Feedback Scenarios



Just like you need to learn how to get ideas, facts, or guidance through effective listening, you can use the same process to get critical information from feedback. But, if there's one thing that most folks will tell you, it's that they have NO idea how to respond to feedback. Whether it's positive ("Have you lost 10 pounds? You look great!") or negative (Wow, you really blew that project at work....."), knowing what to say and how to use feedback are two of the biggest hurdles for most adults--whether at home, work, or school. A great place to start is by looking at this website:


Boogard gives you six valuable tips about turning feedback into a more productive experience:

  • Recognize good intentions,

  • Actively listen,

  • Ask questions,

  • Summarize the feedback,

  • Be gracious,

  • Follow-up

Now, put those tips into action. To do this, read any of the 5 Scenarios from above. Then, ask yourself these questions:

1) Who are the people in the scenario?

2) What is the situation in this scenario?

3) Who is the giver and who is the receiver of feedback?

4) What is the feedback?

5) How does the receiver respond to the feedback?

After you choose a scenario, say or re-write it to reflect the 6 tips from Boogard's article. For instance, in Scenario A, Eric's mom is nagging him to put his dirty laundry into the basket. He ignores her feedback. What if he would have tried to recognize her good intentions instead (i.e., she just doesn't want the whole family to trip over his dirty laundry in the bathroom)? He could then let her know that he was really trying to pay attention to her by repeating her feedback ("You mean all my stuff in the upstairs bathroom?"). He could also stop being rude by ignoring her and pick up his stuff later. As you can guess, if Eric would have used any of Boogard's tips, the ending might be very different for him and his mom. Instead, everyone feels disrespected. Both are frustrated and angry--and his relationship with his mom only gets worse.

*Note: this activity is great either by yourself or with a partner.)


Tip #2: Responding to Respond to Feedback Effectively

Trick #2: Once you figure out exactly what feedback is, the next step is to start responding to it in an effective way. You already started that process with Tip #1. Now, let's put it to use in your own life. Write in a journal for 2 days on your phone or through an App how you responded to feedback during the day. (I like Day One for my Mac but there's lots of other, free apps available for journaling.) For instance, you could write, "A man sitting near me in the movies told me to stop whispering to my friend, so I told him to bug off!" or "A client at work spent 20 minutes yelling at me because the shipment was two weeks late. It wasn't my fault, so I hung up on him." Or, perhaps, your instructor gave you a compliment on your last paper and you didn't know what to say. Any of these responses are all reactions directly related to behaviors and feedback from others. Next, open the Worksheet below and analyze the feedback you received. Of special importance, note how you responded.


Responding to Feedback Template
.docx
Download DOCX • 13KB

For instance, when your instructor gave you a compliment on your paper, did he have good intentions? What about your intentions? Did you really listen to what he said? Or, did you blush, stammer, and feel embarrassed? Instead of being stuck by the compliment, could you briefly summarize his feedback and thank him graciously? You could also follow-up by asking for help on another assignment or suggestions for your next paper. All of these ideas make feedback work for you--not against you.

*Note: If you don't have the time to write in a journal for two days, observe someone else or watch or a small group of people to see how they give and respond to feedback with each other. You can also do this with a partner. (You'll learn a lot doing Tip #2 with a spouse or significant other, or your kids. Just be prepared for lots of new insights!) Examples could be: smiles, thumbs up, frowns, answers to questions, gestures, comments from friends, family, or job supervisors, advice or suggestions about how to do something better, and so forth. You might also see people responding to feedback by: actively listening, stopping the behavior, taking the feedback personally, becoming defensive, apologizing, changing the subject, criticizing the other person in return, or ignoring the other person completely.



Tip#3: More Ways to Respond to Feedback


If you don't have the time to write in a journal or observe others, you can use the Feedback Template in another way--by watching videos. Here's three to get you started:

Just watch each video and fill out the Template. This is also a great activity to do in a small group or with a partner. After you fill out the chart, ask yourself: What does this tell you about successful ways to respond to feedback? What new ideas have you learned about non-successful ways to respond to feedback? How does all of this apply to you?



Tip#4: Giving Successful Feedback

As you've probably figured out by now, feedback is a two-way street. We've looked at responding to feedback, but we also need to explore how you give feedback to others. Whether you're a boss, part of a team, a parent, a spouse, or just talking to your friends, you are always giving someone feedback sometime or another. For instance, you are taking the new love of your life to meet your parents. He asks, "How do I look"? I know you'll have lots of feedback for him! Or, you have an important project due in 24 hours. It could make or break the careers of you and your co-worker. She gives you the final product with multiple pages still missing. Again, I bet you can't stop yourself from giving her feedback. Perhaps, you're having a bad day and someone just gives you a "thumbs-up" during class. All of these are feedback.

An activity to see this in motion is to interview others about how they give and receive feedback. First, pick someone that you trust (e.g., a family member, peer, co-worker, teacher, coach, friend, etc.). Second, ask that person any or all of these questions:

  • Do you know what feedback is? (If not, give info from this blog/podcast.)

  • When was the last time you got some feedback?

  • What happened?

  • Who gave you the feedback?

  • How did you respond?

  • Do you think it went well?

  • What did you do with the feedback?

Third, think about how you would answer these questions yourself. Fourth, compare your thoughts with the answers from the other person. (A variation of this activity would be to do this with a partner and compare/contrast responses to the questions.) Now comes the good part. Make a resolution to yourself to give or respond to feedback in a new way at least once during the next 5 days. Try it to see what happens and be sure to share those new insights with someone else. Then, reward yourself for taking a risk and moving forward in your life! (I usually use ice cream--but do whatever works for you!)


Resources




References:

· Actitime. (2018, March). The importance of feedback. Retrieved from: https://www.actitime.com/project-management/importance-of-feedback

· Spike. (2015, February, 13). Coaching bad, episode 2: Coach Summer gets verbally abusive. [video file]. Retrieved from:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTEKzocCt0o

· The Singing History Teacher. (2015, September 29). Student vs. teacher, part 1: Talking in class. [video file]. Retrieved from: http//:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMbdCYwC-Q0

· Vital Smarts Video. (2013, April 13). Awkward performance review. [video file]. Retrieved from: http//: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdp4sPviV74

· Benicetopenny. (2010, February 9). Penny’s performance review (short film-comedy). [video file]. Retrieved from: http//: www.youtube.com/watch

· Boogard, K. (n. d.). How to take feedback like a pro. Retrieved from: https://www.themuse.com/advice/how-to-take-feedback-like-a-pro

· DeFreitas, T. (n.d.). Performance management and employees with disabilities. Retrieved from: http//: http//: www.askjan.org>articles

· DeFranzo, S. E. (2015, July 1). 5 reasons why feedback is important. Retrieved from: http//: www.sharpsurveys.com

· Heathfield, S. M. (2019, June 25). How to receive feedback with grace and dignity. Retrieved from: https://www.thebalancecareers.com/receive-feedback-with-grace-and-dignity-1916643

· National Association of Special Education Teachers. (n.d.). Part 9—Providing feedback. Retrieved from:

· Learning Disabilities Association of America. (n.d.). Social skills and learning disabilities. Retrieved from: http//: www.ldaamerica.org>social-skills-and-learning disabilities

· Business Communication. (n.d.). What is communication feedback? Causes of poor feedback. Retrieved from: http://www.thebusinesscommunication.com

· Supernanny. (2015, September, 14). Parents don’t like how supernanny speaks to them. [video file]. Retrieved from: http//: www.youtube.com/watch

·


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