From the performance of strangers, to our workers or bosses we are constantly bombarded with requests to provide feedback. But providing appropriate feedback can be challenging, especially when we’re angry. What’s more, there is a time and a place for a specific kind of feedback and each becomes exponentially less effective -- even dangerous if misused.
There are four (maybe a lot more) forms of feedback and each has, as I said, an appropriate context for each of them:
Most people don’t think of silence -- saying nothing verbally or nonverbally -- as a form a feedback but it is. It is appropriately used when you are too angry to be constructive in your feedback. But, if over used it leads to paranoia (think about times when you rarely see your boss and get very little communication from him or her? Your mind can start to play tricks on you and we tend to fill in the blanks with negative thoughts like "maybe I’m going to get fired" instead of “maybe my boss is planning a surprise party for me.”
Criticism is feedback that focuses entirely on negative behavior and is appropriate when there is nothing desirable about the behavior. If you criticism too much you damage the relationship with the other person. It can eliminate related positive behaviors and it leads to escape and avoidance. My late ex-wife and I used to play a game that I think nicely demonstrates escape and avoidance. I call the game “What’s wrong with Phil?” Were this an Olympic sport she would be the first recipient of a platinum medal. The game works like this, she would begin by asking, “Do you know what’s wrong with you?” to which I would eagerly reply, “no please tell me so I can be a better person and more productive member of society." But after awhile I tired of the game and when she would ask the kick off question I would simply exit the scene as quickly as possible.
Advice is when you provide feedback on a positive behavior in conjunction with feedback with an undesired behavior. For example, if someone gets in early and always makes the first pot of coffee but also a big mess, you might provide advice like this, “I really appreciate that fact that you always come in early and make the first pot of coffee, I have to tell you that it is delicious and I really need it when I come into the office, but you might be even more effective if you would please clean up the mess that gets made in the process.” If you were to have used criticism the person would likely stop making coffee.
The final form of feedback is reinforcement and it is used to reinforce positive behavior that has no associated undesired behavior. However, reinforcement can be overused to such an extent that it can lose its impact or even come off as condescending and insulting (“Of course he likes it, he’s an idiot.