Beyond “I Like Your Shoes”: Aligning Feedback with Values

The restorative theme for March is Value-Driven Effective Feedback.

Often, when we hear the word feedback, we imagine a formal evaluation meeting or slightly disguised criticism.

However, feedback is actually neither of those things. Feedback is simply information from the environment about the IMPACT of our actions and choices.

PDF version of “Informal Value-Driven Feedback” handout

Read more below…

For this reason, feedback is happening ALL THE TIME.

When we make passing comments to colleagues or students in the hallway, when we respond to someone’s answer in class, or when we tell someone why their behavior is not working – we are giving them FEEDBACK about WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO US.

However, unless we are prepared and PURPOSEFUL about our feedback, our messages often contradict our actual values.

For instance, we say that attendance and engagement is important to us. 

Yet, when we see a student in the hallway or a colleague in a meeting we say “I love your hair!” or “Cute hoodie!” – INADVERTENTLY giving them feedback that what matters around here is how we look. This is totally normal and not a reflection on our character. Physical compliments are low hanging fruit and an easy way to express warmth. Thus, if we are not PREPARED with a different message, we are more likely to focus on appearance as a way to be friendly.

As another example, we say that we care about “growth mindset“.  In a nutshell, this means praising hard work and effort rather than correct answers.

Yet, how often in class or during a professional meetings do we inadvertently show enthusiasm for the right answer rather than praising courage and validating effort. How often do we say: “First of all, I appreciate your courage in responding. That was a tricky question and not many people even raised their hands.”

OR “First, I appreciate your honesty. It’s not easy to be the first one to give an opinion that goes a little outside the group. And yes – I can see how that character was both generous and a little selfish at the same time.”

If this is intriguing to you, your challenge for the month of March is to work on aligning your comments (your informal feedback) with your values.

Let me know how it goes!

In other news, have you seen this lucid and powerful piece about Restorative Justice in the NY Times?

Reckoning With Violence by Michelle Alexander (author of The New Jim Crow)

 “… Fully 90 percent of survivors [of violent crime] in New York City, when given the chance to choose whether they want the person who harmed them incarcerated or in a restorative justice process — one that offers support to survivors while empowering them to help decide how perpetrators of violence can repair the damage they’ve done — choose the latter and opt to use the [RJ] services.

… Ninety percent is a stunning figure considering everything we’ve been led to believe that survivors actually want. For years, we’ve been told that victims of violence want nothing more than for the people who hurt them to be locked up and treated harshly…”


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