It's a pretty safe bet that at some point in each of our lives, we've been on the receiving end of feedback that was delivered far less than constructively. Think back to those days as a child when communication between classmates often lacked both empathy and socially appropriate filters. Add in the feedback received from family, teachers, coaches, friends, coworkers, and supervisors, and I've no doubt that each of us can expound on memorable examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Although in retrospect I'd rather not have been on the receiving end of the bad and particularly the ugly, I've learned valuable lessons from all of it. Sometimes my key takeaway was how not to give feedback to another human being.
For nurses, being able to competently provide constructive feedback is an essential skill. It's the basis of preceptor and mentor relationships, as well as the professional peer review process. It's also a component of health teaching and coaching when working with patients. Delivered well, feedback can motivate the recipient to improve performance and achieve desired outcomes. Delivered harshly, it can produce the opposite effect and inspire anger, hurt feelings, and resentment. Individuals can shut down, erect barriers to any further interaction, and even consider their personal exit strategy from a difficult situation or a job itself.
What are the main ingredients to delivering excellent constructive feedback? Start with a healthy dose of empathy to better connect with the recipient. Add a strong measure of caring to inspire trust that the feedback is intended to promote growth and success. Visualize the type of relationship you'd like to have with the person after providing the feedback. The desire to maintain a positive and effective working relationship influences both behaviors and word choices during the interaction. Assure that your body language is aligned with the message you're trying to convey. Validate with the recipient that your intended message was indeed perceived accurately and clarify any misinterpretation.
Finally, engage in some critical self-reflection to assess your own performance. Keep in mind that your feedback may be only your opinion; other perspectives may be perfectly reasonable. Keep an open mind. True constructive feedback given for a higher purpose is a gift. Make that gift high quality and one that has lasting value.
Until next time,
LINDA LASKOWSKI-JONES, MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM, FAAN
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, NURSING2018 VICE PRESIDENT: EMERGENCY & TRAUMA SERVICES CHRISTIANA CARE HEALTH SYSTEM, WILMINGTON, DEL.