Three rules of positive feedback

You like something and there is an impulse to tell about it to the person, to support him, to thank. Positive feedback strengthens relationships and helps us to feel support, recognition, love, gives strength to go forward. It is not always clear what to say when you really want to support a person.

Rule 1: no assessments

From school days we are constantly evaluated and compared with others. This creates a painful dependence on estimates. A person can believe that he is how he is evaluated. It is no exaggeration to say that people who have gone through the classical educational system are traumatized by constant evaluation.
“You are good”,” clever”,” you are normal“,” you are a fool”,” nothing good will come out of you” – paradoxically, but in fact these words are not very different from each other. 
Praise is the same assessment, but in a positive way. 
The assessment situation often brings us back to the same student days. A person who appreciates is above, better and you are lower, younger and understand less. And now when we are grown – ups, grades are perceived differently. You can’t attach importance to them or, conversely, take them seriously when you are estimated by the expert. You can’t depend on it.

Every time I hear praise like “you’re good”, I feel there is a catch and I don’t feel good. As if the speaker is above and considers he has the right to assess. He talks down to the one whom he evaluates. The situation is ambiguous.
Most often people do not know where the catch is. It is important to listen to yourself and your feelings. If the phrase “well done” makes you feel unpleasant, most likely, you are faced with an assessment. 
But someone doesn’t think it’s the subject of controversy. A lot depends on the context, the wording, the position of the speaker and your relationship with him. Most often, the evaluation is not the best option for feedback, only if you are not asked about it directly.

Rule 2: respect for boundaries 

Psychological boundaries are a hot and important topic. Like the outer boundaries of the body, we have inner boundaries. Psychological boundaries define a comfortable space for interaction. They are different and depend on the degree of intimacy between people. The language of external borders is more or less clear: you can’t touch strangers on the street, do not stay too close to passengers in transport, etc. Psychological boundaries are more complex: they are invisible, therefore not so obvious. Communication is like a dance with a constant change in the distance between partners, and to make it happen, you need sensitivity, care and respect for each other.

There are general rules of respect for the person’s boundaries: 

  • do not give unsolicited advice. At all;
  • don’t label;
  • be careful when talking about personal things. 

Find out if this is acceptable for the interlocutor. Especially when talking to unfamiliar. Personal topics usually include family and intimacy, money and income, everything about pregnancy, childbirth, children, number of children, quality of parenting, hair color (go on), health and appearance issues, religious topics; – avoid being the “expert”, when you know everything about the person and explain him how it is better to live.
In most cases, these wordings are seen as a violation of boundaries. You can get an appropriate response – for example, aggression. If you want to support a person, it is better to avoid them and choose other ways.

Rule 3: talk about yourself

How to express positive feedback? How to formulate? The point is to shift the focus: do not talk about the person, his actions, appearance or ideas, but talk about yourself what you think, feel about this. Psychologists call it “I-Messages” and advise to use it in any communication, and not only when you want to support someone.
First you need to pay attention to your feelings and understand what you feel. How I react? Why? 
When we know how reach and what we feel, then we can think about the form of expression. How to describe our feelings? Will the person understand the point of my words? 
When we speak about ourselves and our feelings we do not evaluate. We do not impose our ideas but share our feelings. The difference is huge. For example, I see a new landscape image of my friend and it makes me feel warmth and amazement. My positive feedback, instead of evaluation words “what a great photographer you are”, may sound like this: “I really like the picture! The beauty of nature and your ability to capture it fascinates me.” 
To talk about yourself, you may use the following wordings: 

  • “I like” instead of “Good of you!”;
  • “I think” instead of ” you’re so-and-so”;
  • “I feel”, “I consider”;
  • “When I see/read/hear it I…”;
  • “It makes me…”;
  • “I want…”

There are a lot of variants but everyone can find appropriate wording. There are no ready-made recipes here. For correct feedback, keep in mind these three components: do not assess the statement, respect for the boundaries of the other person and use “I-Messages”.

If you are still in doubt about how people react to your words, it is better to ask them directly. “Are you okay with me saying that? My words do not cause unpleasant feelings?” Sometimes people have extreme reaction (triggers) to quite ordinary words.

This scheme can be used for any feedback, not only positive. Let us take care of each other, friends.