Advice for Students: Learning to Read Feedback
NEW YORK, NY — As college students, we often need feedback, but we also sometimes misperceive it as criticism. The important thing is to develop your ability to be attuned to the feedback you receive and to be able to use the correct approach for dealing with it. “Although you may seek out feedback, it will not always be what you expect,” advises Jacquelyn Lanier, PhD, director of the Centre for Academic and Professional Development at Ryerson University.
Here are seven tips from Lanier for how to read feedback in order to be more effective at giving it.
1. Respond by what you mean, not by what is expected.
Give feedback using your genuine feelings and intentions, rather than by what you expect the receiver to feel. This is important because the receiver is not only going to respond in a way that he or she feels best suited to the situation, but also may interpret feedback as being directed or interpreted in a way that differs from what the student intended to communicate.
2. Make explicit what you want to say.
When you give feedback, you may know that you want your student to be more self-disciplined, but your intention may be lost or you may mean something different to the person receiving your feedback. While it’s important to be open about what you would like to hear, being succinct and clear is essential. Remember, you are responsible for what is communicated.
3. Pick and choose your words.
Speak about the right things. When reflecting on performance, you should not say, “You are terrible” because the person who is receiving your feedback may be paying attention to how that comment is going to affect the relationship going forward, rather than how the message was received. “It’s better to compliment a skill or practice as than an overall performance,” says Lanier. “Use the language the person will respond to and what is important to them.”
4. Give feedback objectively.
Don’t over-analyze what the person is saying and don’t jump to conclusions. “A person will absorb your meaning,” Lanier says. “They will take away your goal, expectations, and how you think they should do something.” The only people receiving feedback should be the people who are listening, if possible.
5. Think from the receiver’s point of view.
Give feedback to the individual, rather than the whole group. “It’s better to be in the room and observe their reaction, rather than give feedback to everyone in the room,” says Lanier.
6. Provide feedback individually.
Your friend or sibling might not have the time to give you feedback or would prefer to have a one-on-one conversation with you, so instead give feedback to a single individual. Instead of telling someone what they should do in a group setting, provide feedback to a person, so they can get a better feel for what is being discussed, how to react and what they should do.
7. Understand that feedback is an ongoing process.
Explain that most people will always need advice or direction throughout their entire lives, whether they know it or not. Focus on answering the initial question, don’t ponder any deeper meaning. You are not telling someone what to do, but you are providing the right response to meet his or her needs. It is a process.
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