Feedback is defined as:

the return of feelings, information, changes, results etc. to the stimulus that caused them so that learning can occur and improvements can be made

It is a powerful self improvement process that requires effective communication skills and will be enhanced by positive thinking. The two key criteria are that feedback must help the receiver (and giver) to improve achievement and to learn for personal growth. Feedback that does NOT contribute to this is not valid.

Why bother?:

* feedback is the breakfast of champions - we know in sport, for example, that world and olympic champions invest heavily in coaching and training and learning. WHY?, because it works, the use of feedback delivers results

* our past is not our potential - our past is our past and if we learn from it we can release and realise more of our potential (and avoid simply repeating our mistakes)

* feedback creates more choices, and opportunities to influence, for us and others

* it is both necessary and inevitable - could a child ever mature into an adult without it? could we survive without it?

* it builds trust and respect and stronger relationships - depending on how it is done, of course (please see below)

* it facilitates learning and development and, therefore, self help self improvement and success

* it helps us to expand our comfort zone and, whilst this may feel uncomfortable in the short run, it is critical for our longer term future

* it is done anyway - everyone you know, and have a relationship with, has an opinion about you (just as you have an opinion about them). You can't stop this happening so the smart thing to do is to share the opinions constructively so that all of the above benefits can be achieved.

In particular, pay attention to the following 6 key points about giving and receiving feedback:

1. The power and control rests with the receiver

How the giver shares views is important, of course, but, when the receiver is truly focused on learning, there can be no such thing as a negative process or experience.

2. Feedback makes explicit what was already in people's minds

Whilst perceptions stay unshared inside people's heads, they are of no value to the receiver and can't be used for learning and self improvement (even though they will be affecting the giver's attitude and behaviour). The smart thing to do is to make them explicit so that they can be explored and stimulate beneficial change.

3. Both giver and receiver must commit to make the feedback process positive

In practice, this means using the GOLDEN TRIANGLE of COMMUNICATIONS - i.e. listening, asking and summarising. As all shared views are subjective, and about perceptions (not absolutes), both giver and receiver must ensure that they are:

* hearable

that is, specific, not global; situational, not absolute

* useable

that is, timely, not delayed; a useful amount, not too much

* testable

that is, descriptive, not judgemental or an assumed, "why?"

* owned

that is, feedback is shared to make a difference, not to "win"; and belongs to the giver and receiver, not a third party

4. It is really about the future

Although it is called feedBACK, and often refers to the past, it cannot alter what was. It's real value lies in enabling the receiver (and the giver) to make different choices about tomorrow (e.g. in terms of learning, achievement and personal development).

5. It may engender (short term) discomfort

Encouraging learning and challenge, may move people out of their comfort zones, of course. What does that feel like? Uncomfortable. Learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, it usually means that learning, growth and self improvement are taking place.

6. It requires a balance of high support and high challenge

Simply dumping opinions (and prejudices) and walking away is not good enough, it is not feedback. Simply rejecting others' perceptions or being defensive or in denial or retaliating is not acceptable, it is not feedback.

Honestly sharing perceptions, openly questioning for learning, seeking different choices for the future together, thinking differently as a result and deciding together how to change (and then helping each other to do it) IS feedback and is where the real, powerful benefits are.

The key is to GO AND SEEK others' views - for the receiver to be proactive.

In summary, feedback is inevitable and necessary and is, therefore, always done (inside people's heads). It has massive benefits for the receiver (and giver) which can only be achieved by making feedback explicit. This is often sabotaged by putting the onus for success in the wrong place - with the giver. When the RECEIVER takes ownership for, and control of, the feedback process, most of the difficulties people have with the process disappear.
To avoid or to deny feedback is to miss breakfast. It is to squander the opportunity to invest in achieving the future of your choice which I believe is the fundamental purpose of self improvement. Feedback is a gift and it is just waiting there for you to collect. Get hungry and go get breakfast - every day.

Author's Bio: 

As an independent Facilitator and Consultant, I have spent the last 30+ years helping hundreds of companies, and thousands of people, to release and realise more of their potential by using business-tested individual and team self improvement techniques. Giving and receiving feedback is a key self improvement skill essential for learning and success. I know that these techniques are successful in business (for example, in 2004 I won a U.K. National Training Award in partnership with one of my clients) and I now wish to make them available to a wider population through my new web site: This article is an excerpt taken from the web site and can be accessed at: