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Can You Smell That? It's Time to Get Your Feedback Clean.  

Screenshot 2021-02-08 at 09.22.16 Lukáš Foglar | June 23, 2021, 4-min. read
Clean feedback_pic

They say Feedback is a gift. But giving Feedback, just like picking presents, is a major source of anxiety for many - not only because we all know how hard it is to be gracious about a truly horrible gift. Fortunately, many well-tested concepts can help us ensure we don't end up as those terrible gift-givers. You know who we're talking about here. 

One of the fresher ones that have been making headlines recently is called the Clean Feedback. Designed by Caitlin Walker and Nancy Doyle, this model, emerging from the world of Clean Language, seeks to understand bias to deliver feedback in a palatable way to feed learning and development. It actively investigates individual's way of constructing their world by separating: 
  • What they saw or heard - facts verifiable by a 3rd party not colored with personal insight (evidence),
  • The meaning they made up about it, how they interpret the behavior (inference),
  • And the effect it had on them, how did it make them feel, or behave (impact).
Unpacking our thoughts like this makes us judge less, and stay focused on facts rather than our interpretation of events. It also makes our Feedback easier to understand for the other party (the recipient). 
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Let's look at an example: 

In the last meeting, your colleague has been repeatedly picking up their buzzing phone. At the end of the meeting, you decide to take them aside to give them some feedback. 

John, you've been pretty detached during the last meeting, looking at your phone the whole time apparently responding to some private messages. To others, this might seem like you don't care what they are saying...

At first sight, this doesn't look like a bad piece of reflection. Sure, this doesn't make the best Feedback example either, but it is timely, direct & focused. But it is also full of assumptions, and personal views. 
John certainly wasn't looking at his phone the whole time and at the same time, we don't know what's been distracting his focus - these alleged private messages might have been some urgent business matters or some life-or-death emergency. 

Let's try differently this time: 

John, I've noticed that you picked up your phone 5 times during the last meeting. A few times, we even had to backtrack to previous slides to share what we have discussed while you were busy typing. When you're on your phone for so much of the meeting time, I see it as if you're not (interested in) hearing what we're saying. Not only this makes me feel sad, but it also prolongs the meeting unnecessarily.

See the difference? Of course, Clean Feedback is not a solution in itself, but it offers good guidance to frame a conversation. 
Have you ever heard of Clean Feedback, and if so - have you tried it yourself? 

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