Active constructive feedback

Adam Fraser’s wonderful new book “The Third Space” has gem after gem of useful and practical tools to help build more effective relationships.

One that I love, is research from Shelly Gable that looks at how an individual responds to another individual (this can be in any situation – personal or professional).

Adam describes this research as follows:

The two levels on which a person can respond to another individual:

  • The energy you bring: active or passive.
  • The impact you have: constructive or destructive

As you can see from the table below, these translate into four types of interaction:

Constructive

Destructive

Active

Active/Constructive

Active/Destructive

Passive

Passive/Constructive

Passive/Destructive

  • Active/constructive is giving the other person enthusiastic support.
  • Active/destructive is destroying or picking the event apart.
  • Passive/constructive is being supportive on a low level.
  • Passive/destructive is being dismissive of the event…”

Adam describes the ways that this could be applied at home, at work and whilst parenting.

Here are two of the examples:

“..If a member of your team comes to you and says “I’ve been looking at this system and I think it is really inefficient, but I’ve found a way that can streamline the process and save us both time and money”..

  • Active/destructive: “what are you messing around what that stuff for? That’s not your key focus. We’re under the pump here and you’re screwing around with projects that aren’t in our strategic plan. What, you don’t have enough work to do?”
  • Passive/destructive: “I don’t have time to look at this right now. I am flat out.”
  • Passive/constructive: “Good thinking. Let’s chat about it later.”
  • Active/constructive: “Great job. That process has been holding us back for ages. That is brilliant – great initiative. What do we have to do? Would you be able to lead this?”..

What about your children? When they come up and show you a drawing they made just for you, how do you respond?

  • Active/destructive: “Did you draw on the table? I’ve told you a million times not to do that. You will leave marks on it.”
  • Passive/destructive: “Don’t interrupt me when I am making dinner.”
  • Passive/constructive: “That’s great baby. Look’s beautiful. Can we look at it later?”
  • Active/constructive: “Wow, that’s amazing. Is it a picture of a dog? Right, no that’s a picture of me. That is beautiful, let’s put your name on it and put it on the fridge.”

I am sure I have been guilty of using pretty much every one of those responses, at one time or another. But it is the next link though, that is the clincher for me as to why this stuff is important.

He quotes research from John Gottman that shows that thriving marital relationships have a ratio of positive to negative interaction of 5:1 and Marcial F Losanda’s research into teams that shows that to shift a team to high performance the ratio needs to be 3:1 (6:1 for elite performance).

So it’s not that we need to live in Pollyanna land, but just that we one need to be mindful and conscious of our words and actions (respond not just react).

And secondly, frame things positively and constructively.

Note, this doesn’t mean lying. It doesn’t mean not addressing poor performance. It doesn’t mean not addressing poor behaviours.

So, what do you think? Would this simple model make a difference to the way that you interact at work? At home? With the kids? Let me know.

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