Interpersonal Leadership: Communication
“Disclosure: Responsive Feedback” (SL#48)
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 7.3
- Interpersonal Communication
- Clearly, communication takes place when there is
a cycle of disclosure and feedback. Disclosure takes place
when you let someone else know what you are thinking, feeling, wanting, intending.
Feedback, our major point here, is your responding to disclosure to you from
- Disclosure (other person): “I’m angry
that you canceled the church picnic.”
The act of disclosing, uncovering, or revealing; bringing to light; exposure.
He feels it [his secret] beating at his heart, rising to his throat, and
demanding disclosure. (Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary)
- Feedback (you): “I was disappointed too! We’ve
all worked so hard, but the leadership team thought the lightening storm
too great a risk. Perhaps there was a better way to communicate our decision.”
The return of information about the result of a process or activity; an
evaluative response: asked the students for feedback on the new curriculum.
(The American Heritage® Dictionary)
Responsive feedback is of primary importance in developing effective interpersonal
communication. It should be a continuous part of the communication loop--not
just a specific closing function of a conversation. How are you doing? “Feedback
is the breakfast of champions.”--Rick Tate
This article builds on David W. Johnson’s definition in Reaching
Out: “Feedback--disclosing how you are perceiving and reacting
to another person’s behavior to provide him or her with constructive
information to help the person become aware of the effectiveness of his
or her actions.”
Johnson also discusses five alternative ways that we can listen and respond
(feedback) to another person; each of the ways could be helpful to another
person’s gaining insight and solving problems (pp. 196-233).
- Advising and evaluating
- Analyzing and interpreting
- Reassuring and supporting
- Questioning and probing
- Paraphrasing and understanding
- Interpersonal Feedback Patterns
From the experience and study of many, here are some positive feedback patterns
to learn and practice.
- Feedback should seek to be timely--specific, direct, and on the subject
at hand; not of a general or antiquated nature. Do not “gunnysack”;
that is, bring in stored feelings and bygone episodes.
- Valuable feedback usually depends on mutual trust--not on adversarial
relationships; but you do have to deal with conflict and differences of
- Feedback is usually valuable to provide clarification and meaning of
the message--what is said, meant, and expected. Focus does not mean avoiding
- Feedback is provided by specific questions; by restating the message;
by confirming its interpretation; by uncovering expected but unstated
actions. These are ways to shape your feedback within a context.
- Feedback should reflect your perceptions and feelings, including your
respect for the other person; face-to-face feedback is best for “feeling
- Often, feedback should be informative, factual, showing that you have
correctly heard and interpreted the message; provide correction if error
has been communicated.
- Feedback may be verbal, but with congruent, nonverbal signals; pay
attention to how you sound, look, move, gesture, or fidget.
- Feedback may at times be in your action or changed behavior, rather
than words. “'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' 'I will
not,' he answered, but later changed his mind and went.” (Mt.
- Feedback is often expressed by probing questions. Jesus asked his disciples,
“Whom do men say that I am?”
- Silence can be a powerful form of feedback--encouraging the other to
proceed with the line of thought. At a most intense encounter, Jesus simply
wrote in the sand.
- Feedback should be descriptive, not judgmental or hostile; honest feelings
are inbounds, but accusations do not usually bring about understanding.
- Feedback may be better received if it is solicited directly, or implied.
Feedback can often be checked out through others; you may be the only
one who sees a person the way you do.
- For Reflection/Assessment/Application
- How well do you include affirming, informative, probing feedback in
your communication loop? You may want to read the list again and even
add elements to it.
- Which element could you set out to improve that would give you immediate
benefit? Put specific feedback patterns into practice.
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Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at www.servantleaderstoday.com
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership