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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Giving Feedback and Its Psychological Considerations

Given the scenario, being the president of the Homeowners’ Association (HOA) board, and having to give feedback to one HOA board member that is distressed and to other board members, in light of discussing whether a certain proposal is to be implemented or not, I need to consider some factors before sharing my thoughts.

First, “what is my purpose in giving feedback?” Indeed, before doing anything, it is important to know why we are doing such a thing. Being the president, empathizing with my fellow homeowner would ease out the tension. However, in the present situation, it is best to empathize with the one who is in worse situation: the board member that is heavily distressed by our discussion. Empathy is one of the positive psychologies that I can utilize in easing the feeling of the distressed board member and make him feel a better and positive so that a better decision can be made. Aside from making our discussion productive, empathizing with the distressed board member can “cultivate positive emotions in our own lives and in the lives of those around us not just because doing so makes us feel good in the moment but also because doing so will transform us to be better people, with better lives in the future. (Fredrickson, 2002, p. 131)

The second thing to ponder upon is, “what specific actions am I trying to change?” It is obvious that the situation is becoming too much for everyone who is attending the discussion. It is not only the “action” but also the situation need to be changed. By giving my feedback to the distressed board member, through empathy, I can change the current heated exchange of words and possible long-term misunderstanding that this discussion can lead to, not only today but also in the future.

The third consideration I need to think about is, “what will be the most helpful feedback I can give?” I would tell the distressed board member that I truly understand his position that such a proposition is reasonable that is why we, HOA board members and officers, are currently having this discussion. I would emphasize to him that he needs to take it calmly because so far, the proposition has not been decided yet. Who knows? What he opt to might even get implemented. I would advise him to compose his mind and ideas so that he can further put his input in the final discussion to conclude and decide the matter at hand: whether to have the security guard in the neighborhood or not.

Fourth, I have also to consider that my feedback does not have an assured 100% success rate. I still have to reflect and ask, “what are the potential problems with my feedback?” There are many things that can happen. The anger of the distressed board member might be redirected to me. This happens when his id overtakes his ego or superego. He will turn narcissistic especially if he will realize that I have reasonable feedback but he does not want to admit his mistakes at the same time. He will obviously do this as a defense mechanism. In fact this is one of the "most widespread and supple of the mechanisms of defense” (Newberger, 2000, p. 279), the denial. The board member hates to admit that he overreacted with the issue and that my feedback is rational.

Fifth, “how do I plan to overcome potential problems with this feedback?” As Clarke-Epstein, (2001) stressed, the truth in feedback is that, whether it is “positive or negative, given or received, feedback can be tricky". First, I should plan a very good timing in giving them. I would let the distressed board member calm down for a few minutes, engage him in a conversation that is not related to the subject that distressed him. One good example is something interesting and gives a sense of enjoyment from his side such as his latest vacation or his sailing activity or his upcoming family reunion. Then, I would get back to the issue at hand, look him straight into the eyes and give him my feedback. I should make sure though that no one is nearby who can unnecessarily join in our conversation giving unsolicited opinion that may irritate the board member again.

Sixth, I have to plan whether “all the feedback I want to deliver need to be done at one time?” As indicated above, I have to be in perfect timing to make things work perfectly. Thus, giving all the feedback in one time will not help. A set of procedures need to be followed: one step at a time and slowly but surely. Once the heated discussion is at its peak, I would call for a session/discussion break. In my experience, no one refuses a hot cup of coffee or tea in the middle of a heated discussion. Everyone simply wants to wind up a bit, refresh and free the mind and compose his or her ideas and thoughts better to better present his or her views.
Lastly, I have to ask, “what is the best time to give my feedback without a need to procrastinate?” The feedback that I plan to give should be given outright. It is best to hit the iron while it is hot. In psychology, "some researchers, following behaviorist tenets that reinforcements need to be given quickly to be effective, have thought that it is essential to give feedback immediately." (Metcalfe, Kornell & Finn, 2009) Thus, a ten to fifteen minute break is enough to implement my plan as mentioned in the preceding paragraph. My plan has a 97% success rate because the distressed board member is a close friend of mine and he is also a respected nice person. Once I have implemented my plan on him, my next feedback is for the whole board. If my feedback and advice to the distressed board member succeeds, everything will be better when the time to finalize the discussion comes and decision is to be rendered. Our discussion would be more productive and our personal relationships, with respect to each other, not tarnished by the heat of the discussion.

Clarke-Epstein, C. (2001, November). Truth in Feedback: Positive or Negative, Given or Received, Feedback Can Be Tricky. We Shatter Some Popular Misconceptions to Guide You. T&D, 55, 78+.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2002). 9 Positive Emotions. In Handbook of Positive Psychology, Snyder, C. R. & Lopez, S. J. (Eds.) (pp. 120-131). New York: Oxford University Press.

Metcalfe, J., Kornell, N., & Finn, B. (2009). Delayed versus Immediate Feedback in Children's and Adults' Vocabulary Learning. Memory & Cognition, 37(8), 1077+.

Newberger, E. H. (2000). The Men They Will Become: The Nature and Nurture of Male Character. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publishing.

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