The Giving And Receiving Feedback In Human Communication

Image Credit: Shutterstock @nouveauauplaza Food For The Soul

Both in giving and receiving it… We need to  practice  giving  clear  indications of how much of  a message  sent  us  is actually  received  and   also train our senses  to observe  clearly  how  our messages  are  responded  to  by others.

Image Credit: Flickr @nouveauauplaza Food For The Soul

To start, let us say that all human beings need the contact  of  relationships  and that  all organizations  and  the people in them do not  operate in a vaccum.   Even hermits,  living in a  cave  in  a mountainside,   have  contacts  with   the environment which make it essential that they  responds.   When  they  are  hungry, they  must  find food,   responding  to the message  from  their  stomachs.    When they  feel the  cold   wind   blow  they respond by seeking shelter or putting on protective   clothing.   Although   hermits may   have  little  verbal communication, they   still  must  be  involved in sensing feedback  and  adjusting  their moves to what  happens  to them  in  their surroundings.

Because  few  of  us  are  hermits  in this same  sense,  we need to adjust not just to the cold  or  to  hunger,   but  to  the constant  stream  of  messages  we  get from others in the course of a day.   The number of messages we send or receive may   vary   just  as  our  ability  to  react appropriately may vary from one  person to   another.    In   this  way  we  begin  to identify    those   who    can   give     clear instructions, those who can do what they are  asked,   those  who  can understand complex  information,  those  who   have difficulty in grasping new ideas. Much of the  ability  to  perform    well  in assignments  is  related  to  the ability to give and receive feedback. The sensitive person  can  pick  up the cues offered by another who does not understand  some instructions — maybe it is the  professor responding  to  a  quizzical  look  on the face of a student, and then asking “What is not clear in  what we have been  saying?” The sensitive person also can predict what parts of a message may be subject   to  confusion,   and   restate  or clarify   those  parts  without even being asked,  simply  because  he  or  she has anticipated the hearer’s confusion.

In communication , people need to share  meanings  of words and messages.  It is important for them to know that  communication is transactional —  that is, it  takes   place between  people  under some   kinds   of rules which we agree to follow.     One of the rules is that if someone looks angrily at us after we have made a remark,   we need to figure out what it was we said to make that person angry.  Another rule is that if the listener smiles and nods,   we are  thereby  permitted  to continue with that  kind  of    message.       So    our transactions are affected by the kinds of feedback we receive — whether negative, which   pulls   us   up   short,  or  positive, which    encourages     us  to  go   ahead. Words   don’t   mean,  people  mean  and meaning   is   the  relationship  we make between   a   word   and  what  the  word stands     for.     Meaning  is  the  key   to communication.      Meaning    is    what communication   is   about.    When   we communicate  with one another,  we are attempting  to translate in to a  symbolic system (language) a meaning we have in our  head  so that another person,  upon seeing  or  hearing  the symbolic system, will  translate   it  back  into   a   meaning similar to ours.    The key here is that the function    of   the  symbols  we  use is to make    meanings    appear   in   people’s minds.    If   the   symbols  elicit    similar meanings in different people,  then these people understand the message.    If the meanings  we  have  for words vary from person  to  person,  so  do  our  emotions vary.   It   is    important    in    our communication transactions to be aware of both content and emotion.

There    is   a      tendency    in all of us to sometimes pretend we understand when we  really do not.     It  is  not  considered intelligent  to   ask,   “what  do you mean by…?     and  we may try to avoid looking stupid.   As a result,  we may miss some important  messages by pretending and give the other person feedback which is false.   Two factors are important here: first,  that   we try to  give more honest feedback  about  our  depth of understanding,     and   second,  that  we make  it easy for the other person to say he or she  does  not  understand.    If you can  reduce  the  other  person’s  anxiety about asking questions by suggesting in advance  that  you  may not be making it clear,   you   may  receive  more    honest feedback.    On  the  other  hand, we may have  to  swallow our pride and admit we do   not   understand,   and  thus  provide more    honest   feedback   to   the   other person’s message.

Preparing   the  way  for a message has been    called  “feedforward”   for  an obvious     reason   —  it  sets  up    the possibility of getting feedback.  Making use of appropriate feedforward, should assist the feedback process.  You may also  precede  a  statement  you  make with a feedforward phrase such as, “If you   have  no   plans  for tonight… ” or Let’s         talk      about      next week’s assignment…” which gives the cues to your listener that you expect a response and  what  directions  the  discussion  is going to take.



The    modification or control of a process using its anticipated results or effects.

From Oxford

The  concept of feedforward should not be described  as  apart   from feedback,   but  rather as a specialized activity within a total feedback system. Feedforward  will help  anticipate actions.

Two people riding together on a bus as strangers will make a number of moves to test whether or not the other is ready to talk, and what they will they talk about. Feeding  forward  in  our communication will  usually  result  in  more  appropriate responses in one another as we begin to operate   the  give-and-take  of communication.

Also, emotion is involved in the feedback process.    Our attention to feedback will help  us  verify  who we are in relation to others,   as  well  as  what  is  said.    We discover   who   we  are by watching the reactions of others.   How others see us, will  significantly  improved when we are given feedback.    Just having  feedback available,  however,  is  not  enough.  We need  to know how to handle it — that is, how  to  give  it appropriately and how to receive it intelligently.

Some Suggestions for Giving and Receiving Feedback in Human Communication follow

1.) Focus Feedback on Behaviors rather than on the Person

We generally can look more objectively on  what  we  do  than  what somebody says we are. Our behaviors, or actions, are  only  a  momentary  part of us and therefore   we  feel  more    comfortable about being challenged to change them. If   someone   calls  us   “dishonest,”    it sounds quite different from their saying we acted     “dishonestly”    in    a   given situation. We cannot tolerate very well an attact on     “us”    which   is  what   much criticism   sounds   like.   If  someone is critical  of  our  behavior,   we can more easily   accept   responsibility  for   that action, rather than tell ourselves we are a product of our genetic inheritance and for  that  reason  cannot   possibly be blamed nor think of changing.

Behaviors include those things a person does  well as  much  as  the things done badly. In describing behaviors we tend to concentrate    on   those   which  need improvement,   but   a  person  can often learn  much  from  feedback about those actions   which   facilitate,   support,    or improve communication. Descriptions of behaviors   should  not  be  evaluative or selective,  but should comment on what went on.

2.) Focus Feedback on Observations rather than Inferences

Observations   are   those   things which could  be  seen or heard  by anyone,  but inferences are   your own interpretations or conclusions about what went on. If we spice  our observations  with  inferences, we  tend  to  obscure   feedback,   so  we must be careful to differenciate when we are  making  inferences,  or extentions of our observations.

Observations   involve  what is going on, not what  happened  at  some   previous time or some  persistent characterisitcs you  have  noticed  over   a  long   period. Research  of Journal applied Behavioral Sciences has shown that feedback given as soon as appropriate after observation will be more specific, more concrete, and generally more accurately reported.

3.) Focus Feedback on Description rather than Judgment

As in case of  focusing on behaviors,  to use description is to avoid evaluation of the other person or of his or her actions. Description  attempts to remain  neutral, but judgment takes sides.

Concentrate  on  the  “what”  rather than the   “why.”   Again   the   “what”  of   the behavior  is  observable  by bothers and therefore  can  be checked for accuracy. The   “why”   of  a  person’s  behavior  is inferred and leads us into the dangerous area  of ‘intentions”   and   “motives” and the  emotionalism  which  goes with it. It may  be  useful  at  times  to  explore the  “why”   of  behaviors,  but  this should be done   with   the  help and consent of the person  being  discussed.   Most   of   us enjoy   playing  “shrink” to all our friends, but we should realize that our analysis of the   other  person’s   behaviors  may  be more   subject   to   our  own aberrations than  to  theirs.   If we concentrate on the ‘why,”   we  may  miss  much  of  the very useful “what” of feedback.

4.) Focus Feedback on Sharing of Ideas and Information rather than on Giving Advice

a. We  need  to feel a joint responsibility for the outcome of  the feedback encounter  and  be  ready  to  assist  the other rather  than  direct  his  or   her responses.

b. Telling  another   what  to  do  with the information we give does not leave them free  to  determine  what  the appropriate course of action for them will be. Advice giving  is  a  poor  attempt  at  problem solving  which  does  not  give  the   other person  leeway  to  make  his  or her own choices.

c. Explore  alternatives  rather  than provide solutions. If we concentrate on a variety  of  available  responses,  we can help  move  toward  a  more  satisfactory answer. Too often we have ready at hand a  list  of   solutions   waiting  for  the problems  to come along which might fit. When  we  offer  a  solution, ready-made from  our  own experience,  it may not be useful  to  someone  based  on his or her experience or because the problem may not be exactly as we saw it.

5.) Focus Feedback on What It May Do to Who Receive It

a. If  giving  feedback is only making you feel  good,   you  may  not  be  helping as much as you are imposing.

b. Be aware  of  how  much  feedback another  person can handle at one time. Avoid  the  long recitation “and then you did…” after the recipcient has given you some  feedback  that he or she is full to the  brim.  After  that  time  you are only satisfying  your  own  need, and not the other person’s need.

c. Emotional reactions may result when feedback  is  given at the wrong time or place.  This  is  particularly  true  in  the more  sensitive  and  personal  areas of human behavior. Even if you have some worthwhile  points to make, they should be presented with the recipient in mind.



1.  information about reactions to a product,  a person’s performance of a task,  etc.   which is used as a basis for improvement

2.  the modification  or  control of a process  or  system by its results or effects,  e.g.  in  a  biochemical pathway  or  behavioral  response.

From Oxford

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6 thoughts on “The Giving And Receiving Feedback In Human Communication

  1. Dear ,
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    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there Dr. Fawzy! Thank you so much for taking your precious time to share that health tips with me. I appreciate it much.

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