Requesting Feedback for Clarity, Honesty, and Two-way Benefit

The communication process loop is not complete without feedback. I think humans are always making requests for feedback, though often without conscious thought. To every sentence is attached the request, "Tell me if you understand."

I suggest bringing the requests for feedback into conscious thought and intention. I request feedback for purposes of clarity, honesty, and two-way benefit. I will explain each of these, what I mean and how I see them working in real life.

Sometimes feedback that signifies clarity can come in a thoughtful nod of the head, or spoken "Yes." Sometimes I may ask for that feedback by questions such as, "Do you understand?" or "Is this clear?" Sometimes more involvement is needed for clarity.

The request, "Would you be willing to tell me what I just said?" or "Could you please repeat what I said?" can be taken as a demand unless prepared for before the incident where needed, and claimed as a help to my expression skills not a test of someone's listening skills.

The other person repeating what I just said can be requested as a direct help to the meeting of the desires of both parties. Such feedback is especially helpful when either party includes more than one person. It gives opportunity to correct first impressions.

In requesting feedback for honesty, I consider what I want and what I'm hearing. Do I want to know how this person feels about my statement? Or thinks? Or desires? I can ask specifically for each kind of honest feedback.

Asking for honest feedback is especially effective and helpful after I have presented a request. If done compassionately and with willingness to listen, in the face of a refusal of my request, this is almost magic in building relationships and healing hurts.

In requesting feedback for two-way benefit, my goal is to communicate my desire to see the desires of each party met. If I fail to bring an attitude of compassion and listening, all my previous requests will be seen as demands for my own benefit rather than a search for a solution for the benefit of all.

Attitudes that label another person, or tell what he or she ought to do can automatically steal my attitudes of compassion and listening. So I check my attitudes for traces of judgment, condescension, or authority which will automatically turn requests into demands in the ears of my hearers.

When I get feedback, and have determined 1) whether it represents the other persons feelings, thoughts, or desires, and 2) whether it represents my last statement as a true request and not a demand, I can either re-state my position or move on to give my feedback to the feedback.

Some of the ideas for this article come from these works:

Patterson, Kerry, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, Al Switzer. Crucial Accountability: Tools for Resolving Violated Expectations, Broken Commitments, and Bad Behavior. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2013.

Patterson, Kerry, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzer. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when Stakes Are High. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2002.

Copyright 2014 Wilma Zalabak