Empathic Feedback: The Role of Empathy in Feedback
Feedback is an emotional process; one that may cause feelings of embarrassment, shame, anger—or possibly pride, elation or relief. In addition, the feedback we give may or may not be consistent with how the other person sees himself and this can trigger some very primal reactions. To give feedback (or insights) effectively, we need to have empathy for what the other person is experiencing – particularly, if the other person is getting defensive. People get defensive because they don’t feel safe. As the giver of feedback, it is your job to understand (and care) about the other person’s experience. This takes Emotional Intelligence.
In the article, “Leadership That Gets Results,” Daniel Goleman discusses the main elements of Emotional Intelligence. In addition to self-awareness, self-management and social skill, is social awareness. Empathy is one of the key components of this social awareness. Goleman defines Empathy as “skill at sensing other people’s emotions, understanding their perspective, and taking an active interest in their concerns.”
The more we have empathy for the other person’s experience, the more we are attuned to what’s really going on for them. This allows for better communication and mutual understanding that can build the relationship. Providing feedback (or insights) to others is a valuable way to not only develop your people but to build your relationships.