The Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback

Spring 2021

We receive feedback every day and from a variety of sources. Within your practice, feedback can be exchanged with employers, colleagues, clients, or even the College. Feedback comes in several forms, and it can be verbal or non-verbal. In healthcare settings, like Massage Therapy practice, giving or receiving feedback can present some challenges.

Feedback, however, is an essential source of information that helps us reflect and improve our practice. For Massage Therapists, an important part of evidence-informed practice is to actively engage in reflection, which is woven throughout the 15 Career-Span Competencies, outlined in STRiVE – the Quality Assurance Program (STRiVE).

5 Tips for Accepting Feedback

It can be easy to take feedback personally, but feedback should be considered a learning opportunity. Here are some tips to consider when receiving feedback:

  1. Be open and actively listen: Remaining receptive to the information being shared and listening without interrupting can help understand the message being sent, and help you respond constructively to the feedback being offered.
  2. Ensure you fully understand the intended message: Check to confirm that you are understanding the information being shared. Asking questions for clarification or repeating back some of the points received may help you engage in a meaningful dialogue that helps you improve your skills.
  3. Reflect: Take some time to think before responding. Focus on understanding the feedback beyond your immediate reaction.
  4. Be aware of how you respond: Your body language and tone of voice can impact meaningful communication. Being respectful of the individual providing feedback, even if you may disagree, will help encourage future feedback.
  5. Take actionable steps: Sometimes, this is just a matter of implementing the discussed changes in your practice. At other times, it may be a long-term plan that requires different changes on your part (e.g., working on your communication style). Consider reconnecting with the individual who provided you the feedback, and share the impacts the changes may have had on your practice.

How to Give Effective Feedback

It is equally important to consider how you would feel if you were the recipient of the feedback you are choosing to provide. In a practice setting, maintaining professionalism is critical when giving feedback. Here are some tips to help you provide effective feedback:

  1. Setting: Most often, feedback needs to be shared in a private, one-on-one space. In some instances, it is possible to give feedback in a group setting, provided that the information being shared is focused on the group as a whole and not directed at individuals.
  2. Timeliness: Providing feedback promptly is generally preferred, as feedback can lose its value if delayed too long.
  3. Balance: Approaching the delivery of positive and negative feedback is a delicate balancing act. You may consider using the “feedback sandwich” model if you feel it is appropriate to do so within the given situation. The feedback sandwich is a method that positions one helpful suggestion for improvement in the middle of two positive remarks. This method helps the feedback receiver learn and continue to enhance their skills, while recognizing their strengths. Other methods of balancing feedback may also be used.
  4. Focus on the behaviour, not the individual: Keep the feedback concentrated on tasks or actions, rather than on perceived personality traits.
  5. Be specific: Always include specific behaviour-related examples that highlight the feedback you are providing, and avoid generalizations.
  6. Be realistic: Ensure that any suggested changes are within the recipient’s control to implement. If there are several matters to address, consider limiting the feedback to the most important topics, so that the recipient does not feel overwhelmed.
  7. Be supportive: Make an effort to follow up with the recipient and invite them to follow up with you. Effective feedback needs to be a continuous process.

The information outlined above offers some general themes, however, it is important to remember that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. If the art of giving and receiving feedback sparks your interest, consider including the topic as part of your future STRiVE learning plan.

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