Feedback is critical for learning complex new behaviours. We rarely get things perfect the first time we try something new or different. Feedback tells us if we are heading in the right direction, aspects or areas where we have done well, and aspects we can improve.
Feedback should be provided whenever a client tries out a new or different behaviour, or expresses their understanding of new concepts that the practitioner is trying to impart.
Key feedback techniques include reinforcement and challenge. Reinforcement comments on the aspects of performance that are done well, while challenge points out aspects that can be improved. Positive aspects should be identified first, followed by specific recommendations for change (Bedell & Lennox, 1997; p22-23).
(e.g. ‘The way that you kept calm and asked directly for what you wanted was really good. One way to improve that is to speak more slowly’).
Feedback is most effective when it provides information about specific aspects of behaviour (e.g. Rather than saying ‘That was fabulous’ say ‘It was fabulous how you clearly expressed what you wanted from John’).
Feedback can also involve the technique of reflection without any reinforcement or challenge. For example after listening to the client expressing his thoughts or feelings, a simple reflection may involve paraphrasing what was said. This sort of reflection informs the client that his expression has been understood. Alternatively it provides information about which aspects of expression were understood and which aspects were not.
Using feedback consistently and deliberately can also teach clients how to provide appropriate feedback for themselves and others.