The Importance of Feedback in Interpersonal Communication

If you speak (about something) to your partner in a conversation, and you get no relation to it, no response to what you just said – it means that what you said got lost, wasted, not returning back to you, or worse: returned to you empty-handed, hitting you in the face, poor depleted and shameful, because it was ignored, like what you said was not said at all, or was not important enough to get a relation to.

Whatever came out of one partner in a a conversation of two and gets no feedback as to how it was received by the other, of how he saw it, and mostly; in what way exactly he understood it, and in what way did he take it? The way the listener is taking in what was said must be known and clear afterwards to the speaker, otherwise he is in complete darkness as to what kind of impact his words had on his partner, he has got no idea. In fact, it is worse than that: he is sure that he knows how his words are being received, and the way the other receives them is exactly the way he meant them. He was sure that the way he meant them will be the exact way the other person will receive them. But not until the other gives his feedback about how he saw what was said – does the speaker have any clue about the reception of what he meant to say.

(Actually, in reality, there is no chance that the listener will receive the speaker’s words as the speaker meant them, in fact, he will receive them completely subjectively, [and therefore- probably, wrong]).

In fact, without the feedback, there would be an unbridgeable gap between how the speaker thinks that his words are being received, and how they are being received for real.

Now, I must emphasize that no response is also feedback, a response could be a movement in the chair, a cough, a blink – all are quite meaningless concerning the content of what was said and give no intelligence to the speaker about how his words were received. But feedback is not just any kind of just meaningless response, it is a response that relates to the content of what was said and how the listener views and interprets what was said, from his point of view.

Now, why is it that giving feedback to the content of what was said is so rare?
Because, after all, there is nothing more natural than giving feedback, lovers and intimate friends do it all the time. In fact, abstaining from giving feedback is partly intentional; it is, actually, a passive-aggressive avoidance of the feedback from the other as a part of a secret, hidden intention to reach a higher status; the one who gets the lesser feedbacks – gets his status become lower and lower the less feedback he gets.

And often the listener is using the gap – being created by the absence of his feedback – as an opportunity to take the speaking role, and thus become the dominant figure, which is the one with higher status.

And on the contrary; showering much feedback on the partner – upgrades his status. The more is the feedback – the higher is his status gets.

Most listeners are using the gap which is created by the absence of their feedback – to take the lead in the conversation, and thus they strengthen their high status in this conversation (by taking more territorial space in it).

The best way to give feedback is through the following questions, that has in them a suggestion for a specific kind of understanding or interpretation of what was said by the speaker, examples to which the speaker can say either: “yes, this is what is meant, you understood me right”, or: “no, what I meant is”.

And here are some examples of questions that have in them a certain and specific line of comprehension, (that could be denied or confirmed). It is important that the questions are closed and not open questions, in order to make it easy for him, all he has to do is just to choose.

Here are 3 examples of the 3 main questions:

(All feedbacks should begin with the following words):

First question: If I understood you correctly, than what you were trying to say is: so and so, am I right in this understanding?

Second question: Is what is behind what you are saying is this and this?

Third question: Is my feedback managed to pinpoint the direction that your words are leading towards?

What is good about these questions containing specific suggestions – is that sometimes the speaker himself doesn’t know what he meant, in this way you help him to connect to his hidden intention and at the same time corrects any wrong reception you might have of what he was meaning in his words (happens often…) – by him affirming or denying your way of underseeing of what he meant by what he was saying.

An inclusive exercise:

This vital and often missed function of the feedback could be best practiced in an exercise of a triad, in which three people fulfill 3 alternation turns: speaker: its function is to be eloquent, clear and flowing (about any subject). A listener: his function is active listening, head nods, expressive face, raising eyebrows, etc. and after the speaker ends, to give him feedback. The last function is that of the observer, who gives reflection about the mood, the dynamic and the atmosphere during the interaction (based a lot on body language). This exercise will give the context for understanding feedback.

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