Feedback and how to give it

31 Mar 2023 | Blogs | 0 comments

Feedback and how to give ‘it’ always seems to be an area of uncertainty for many people. There are various models we have been told to use but none that I have ever felt really comfortable with and I’m sure I’m not alone. Especially the sandwich type! One of the biggest causes of conflict can be around giving and receiving feedback. Mike Morrison, at the time a dean of Toyota University, Los Angeles, commented that annual performance reviews “essentially reduce performance for six days each year: three days while people prepare for it and there days recovering from it. The trouble, as many of us have experienced, is even the slightest whiff of a status threat can be picked up by our unconscious brains and activate our emotional limbic system into defending ourselves.

When we focus on problems our brains automatically search for past experiences bringing up similar or imaginary problems. This automatically leads us into an even greater place of emotional arousal making it more difficult for the brain to actively solve them. It’s now well known in neuroscience that our brain rewards us with a little rush of dopamine when we get perceived success. The more negative connections you make by focusing on the problem the less dopamine you have and the more energy you use. All creating a downward spiral. Eventually all you feel like doing is giving up.

The brain likes to take this easy route as it is a route of certainty i.e. no threat, as opposed to thinking of the future which is the unknown and therefore could be a potential threat, as no real certainty.

So how do we do it differently to still get the results we want from others? The first decision is to decide on the outcome we are looking for. This automatically primes the brain to be open to relevant information to the outcome we want, rather than noticing information about the problem. Because you are then seeking something rather than avoiding, your brain is able to release dopamine, making you feel happier and more able to gain the insights you need to make the change required. Or likewise for the other person.

We all know we don’t necessarily follow or like other peoples advice. Giving feedback is often treated in the same way. Taking on other peoples suggestions isn’t always the way we want to go. For a start this instantly creates the potential for us to feel an unconscious  status threat if someone else’s idea is better than our own. And on the flip side, it is very hard for us to refrain from giving someone the solution when it is so obvious, as it takes real effort to withhold your own point of view. It’s a possible double whammy when their status might threatened by your idea and your status may be threatened by not coming up with the best idea for them!

Here are some steps that you can try for them:

  • Increase their sense of status by encouraging them
  • Increase their sense of certainty by making implicit issues explicit – Clarify your objectives
  • Increase their sense of autonomy by listening to their ideas first
  • Help people simplify a problem into a few words as possible
  • Help people to reflect in a quiet way – not focus on the problem
  • Facilitate them to have a good state of mind to do their thinking

Ask questions to focus their attention on their own thoughts – such as:

  • If you stop and think more deeply here, do you think you know what you need to do to resolve this?
  • What is your gut feel about the solution here?
  • How close to a solution are you?
  • Which pathway to a solution would be best to follow?


Here are some steps that you can try for you:

  • Practice holding back your own thoughts and suggestions
  • Practice asking questions not telling
  • Practice keeping your emotions down so that you can think clearly in order to help the other person.

If you would like any further information please feel free to contact  us

These principles are taken from the work of David Rock – Your Brain at Work, Harper Collins (2009).


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