2.5 Providing feedback
In order to reduce the impact of your own assumptions and attitudes, it is important to provide the listener with feedback. It is a way of demonstrating that you are listening and checking that you have understood what you have heard.
The key skills required in giving effective feedback are:
- Paraphrasing – putting what the speaker has said into your own words and playing this back to the speaker. This can be useful for several reasons. It demonstrates that you are listening carefully and trying to understand. It gives the speaker an opportunity to correct anything you have misunderstood. It also encourages the person to elaborate and offer further explanation. Make sure you do this when they have finished making their point rather that interrupting them mid-flow.
- Summarising – summing up the whole discussion concisely can provide a useful overview, particularly if it has been a long conversation. It could be that the person you are talking to is rambling and wandering off the point or they may be repeating themselves or adding unnecessary details. You can also use this technique to check the accuracy of your own understanding.
- Reflecting – focusing on reflecting the emotion behind the words in order to show comprehension. For example, if someone seems confused by the situation they are describing, you might include a comment such as ‘… and you feel confused by this’ in your paraphrasing or summary. It is a powerful skill that can reinforce the message of the speaker and demonstrate understanding. This will inevitably encourage the speaker to continue.