Communication: The Feedback Model

The “feedback model” is a valuable communication tool. It allows you to respond to other’s “feeling” expressions by identifying what you see and hear. It provides the speaker the opportunity to acknowledge their assumptions and clearly express their feelings in return.

It is particularly helpful in giving feedback in a conversation fraught with emotion and can help to de-escalate tensions:

This is the “Feedback Model”:

“When I heard/saw ________________________________________;
I assumed ________________________________________________; and,
I felt _____________________________________________________.”

By structuring a statement in this way you tell the other person what you heard or saw, the assumption that you made about what you heard or saw, and how that assumption made you feel.

The acknowledgment that your feelings are based on an assumption allows the other person the chance to correct your assumption if it was incorrect or based on incomplete information.

This also gives the other person the change to hear the impact of their words or actions and apologize if need be or clarify if that impact was or was not their intention.

Here are some examples of statements:

“When I saw you look down at the floor while I talked to you about mistakes in your work; I assumed you were embarrassed; and I felt sad because I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”

“When I saw you look over at him and smile while I was talking to you; I assumed the two of you have some kind of inside joke; and I felt embarrassed and excluded.”

“When I hear you raise your voice on the phone with the client; I assumed you were stressed; and I felt concern that you are struggling to manage the emotional demands of this job.”

“When you missed work again yesterday; I assumed you were trying to avoid the staff meeting I had scheduled; and I felt frustrated that you couldn’t talk to me about your concerns.”

Utilizing this feedback model requires acknowledging your feelings and that requires your willingness to be vulnerable. By using this structure in your feedback you add in some safety because it invites clarification rather than conflict.

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