Tag Archives: effective communication

Psychology of feedback

Our highly competitive world requires good and service companies, organisations and employees to improve constantly to stay on the top of their game. Giving feedback, which is information provided regarding aspects of one’s performance or understanding, is part of this “room for improvement” business.

Employees undergo appraisals periodically. Clients and customers have access to online reviews. During a birthday dinner party last June 15, I sat next to a lady who advised me to get into our city government’s website and expose my displeasure with their inaction regarding the pigeons’ invasion of my neighborhood that has caused financial and health anguish. 

Since we are all either employees, employers, consumers, clients, or mere citizens, we do give or/and receive feedback regularly. As well, we get and give remarks, comments and advice from our family and friends, which are actually receiving and providing feedback.

Feedback, if not positive, should only be constructive criticism. Positive feedback can be manifested in many ways. Above is a photo of flowers given to me by a language school where I have been working for 10 years. I consider this as a positive feedback – a show of appreciation and encouragement to continue performing well.

My students fill in mid and end-of-course evaluation forms, which can be awkward doing it in my presence, particularly in a diverse environment where cultures and personalities come into play. Nevertheless, I insist on going through this as I am adamant that giving and receiving feedback helps me aid them achieve their goals and maximise their potential.

I value my students’ feedback as when done in an objective and fair manner and with the right intentions, it improves my performance.  I have to know what I am doing well and not so effective. However, with voluntary feedback, you get the extremes – those who quite like you and think you’re so marvelous and those who are naturally critical and cynical. Those in between often don’t bother doing it. I had been told by a friend that there’s this teacher whose entire lesson involved watching films that his students hardly understood, but he always got positive feedback because his “favourites” (term they used to describe his friend-students) followed him in his courses and gave him comments that were the opposite of reality. Whereas, his colleague who’s a valued teacher received a lower score.  Thus, should we take feedback seriously?

Emotions, such as anger, envy, fear, friendship, indignation, happiness and sadness affect individuals’ perceptions, judgments and behaviours.  As such, their feedback – whether positive or negative – is  also about them. Online surveys have anonymity but do not guarantee honest responses. Should feedback be done face-to-face to have an opportunity for both parties to air their views? This is time consuming and has limitations due to power imbalance, as in employer-employee and teacher-student relationship. As well, even face-to-face or focus group feedback is not free from biases, which can be cognitive, confirmation or attribution.

According to Psychology Today (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/bias seen 21/06/19), cognitive biases are repeated patterns of thinking that lead to inaccurate or unreasonable conclusions; confirmation biases refer to the brain’s tendency to search for and focus on information that supports what someone already believes while ignoring facts that go against those beliefs, despite their relevance; and attribution biases occurs when the person tries to attribute reasons or motivations to the actions of others without concrete evidence to support such assumptions. These biases help feedback givers make decisions and comments, which may not always be accurate. Therefore, when giving and receiving feedback, it’s important to be aware of these biases, particularly cognitive ones, and try to redress these. If you are the receiver of an unfair feedback, be open-minded and do not let this experience (which sometimes can be attributed to the critic’s bias or inadequacy to give feedback) damage your confidence and self-esteem.

The ABC of a lasting relationship


You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships every day. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.
— Epicurus (Greek philosopher, 341–270 BC)

While in a jovial mood at last month’s carnival party, I agreed to my Polish friend’s invitation to dinner in a French restaurant five minutes on foot from my residence.

After some minutes of tiptoeing on the snow, my husband and I were ushered to a table in the middle of a room directly in front of a flat stage with standing microphone and sound system. All tables had only two chairs, and we were discouraged from mingling with other couples, including my Polish friends.

On the table was a beautifully cut-out paper in a shape of a turbine with a dozen questions, such as “What’s the best moment you had with your partner recently” and “What do you like most in your partner these days?”

During the appetiser, our conversation focused on the unusualness of the evening. There was a short show about relationships, which was really an introduction to the instructions and information on what’s going to happen next. We were given a piece of paper sealed by a small heart with topics for discussions, which ranged from needs to values. My husband and I started with honesty; then, we branched out into children and movies, which we weren’t supposed to do. It was meant to be a “tête-à-tête ». Thirty minutes later, they distributed to every couple a folded A4 paper that had 2 different pictures to be described to each other.

The main event of the evening was the discussion of what the organisers entitled the “L’ABECEDAIRE de la Communication du couple qui dure» (The ABC of a couple/relationship that lasts): attentes, besoin, comprehension, differences, ecouter, ferme, gentillesse, honnetete, intentions, jugements, klaxon, lien, moment, negocier, opportunity, pensees, questions, rire, silence, temoigner, utile, valuer, winchester, X, yeux, and zenith.

When translated into English, the above doesn’t follow the ABC flow; however, the message stays remain and true:

« Attentes » – expectations. Tell your partner your expectations rather than waiting for him/her to guess these.

Besoin – need. Ask questions about your partner’s needs.

Comprehension – understanding. Understand your partner and ensure that she/he knows that you understand him/her or what s/he goes through.

Differences – differences. Face the issues of differences in your relationship with empathy rather than find faults.

Ecouter – listen. Listen and not just hear his/her views and do this with patience and empathy.

Ferme – firm. Be firm yet respectful about the issues that are important to you.

Gentillesse – kindness. Whatever your disagreement, don’t be angry and defensive but appreciate your differences.

Honnetete – honesty. Be honest when you talk about your desires and feelings rather than accusing the other of ill communication.

Intentions – intentions. Don’t entertain negative intentions. Always ask if you’ve understood it well rather than assume the intentions of your partner.

Jugements – judgements. Accept that the other person sees things differently from you to avoid judging his/her opinions, needs and sentiments.

Klaxon ‘Tu, Tu, Tu’- horn (You, You, You). Avoid this sentence structure: You’ve to…, You need to…YOU…

Lien – bond. Maintain a strong bond by always telling your partner that s/he is important to you and your relationship even in the midst of quarrels.

Moment – moment.Prefer to talk about your feelings and thoughts of the present than the past and the future.

Negocier – negotiate. Negotiate that leads to a win-win situation, i.e. it incorporates both needs, which might mean compromising.

Opportunite – opportunity. Relationships are full of ups and downs. Choose an appropriate moment to talk about problems, i.e. when none of you is upset or annoyed, which may mean making an appointment.

Pensees – thoughts. When you want to express your negative thoughts, think seven times before saying these.

Questions – questions. Answer directly to questions pose by your partner.

Rire – laugh. “Laughter is the best medicine”. Laugh at the weaknesses of your partner rather than dramatise or exaggerate these. Laughing together is staying together.

Silence – silence. Don’t let silence be a usual or permanent part of your relationship.

Temoigner – witness.  Express verbal appreciation when your partner does something for you. Go for compromise or/and understanding of your differences, and be a constant testimony of this.

Utile – useful. Be certain about what you want to/have or want to say and be useful in finding solutions to the conflict or disagreement.

Valeur – value. Avoid devaluing the personality of your partner and comment on the result of the action rather than his/her value.

Winchester – Winchester (a large cylindrical bottle for holding liquid). Avoid a Winchester of accusations and blames as these block communication.

X – x (Native English speakers use ‘X’ at the end of a message to represent a kiss). Be generous with hugs and kisses even in times of disagreement.

Yeux – eyes. Look at the person in the eyes to show your genuine interest and attention.

Zenith – zenith (the highest point). The sun isn’t always at the zenith, as with your relationship. Accept that there are different seasons and moments in any relationship, but what’s constant is never abandon the willingness to communicate to each other.

Communication and compromise are needed in all relationships, not just in romantic or intimate ones.

All types of relationship cannot grow without communication, which is a skill (and not just knowledge) that can be learned (also correct ‘learnt’). Like all skills, we’ve to work at it, and let’s start with the ABC of a lasting relationship.

Professional and Everyday Writing

Happy Easter to all of you!

I thought today’s the 31st of March. I have just come back from a 4-hour chess tournament and am waiting for dinner. It’s nearly 9 in the evening, and I have little mental energy left to do my first day-of-the month’s blog. Thus, I decided to tell you about my soon-to-be-published book instead.

Foreword

The first article I wrote was published in my university newsletter 40 years ago. It was about my 24-hour travel by boat and bus from home to my alma mater. I felt disappointed seeing some words changed and several sentences reconstructed by the newsletter editor. I soon realised that at 16 years old I was just starting to learn how to write.

Ten years later, when my first journal article took a dozen drafts and tough comments from academic reviewers, I just grinned. I even considered it a victory because, at least, it was not an outright rejection and it eventually got published in the Australian Journal of Criminology. Writing is an art and a skill. Some people are gifted by nature and need no or little help to become good writers. Most of us, however, must spend time and energy to harness our writing skills.

Though the evolution of culture and society impacts how we use language, the essentials in writing have remained fairly constant, particularly in formal communication: grammar, verb tenses, punctuation, paragraphing, sentence structure, capitalisation, and tone.

Nowadays, English is spoken widely in countries that have national languages (e.g. India, Singapore, and The Philippines) and not only in Australia, Canada, the UK, and the USA. Nevertheless, standard American and British English varieties remain the main global business and academic references (lingua francas).

The questions and comments of my students, who are adults comprising of public servants, accountants, bankers, lawyers, office employees and tertiary education applicants, have inspired me to write this handbook. They often juggle their professional and personal responsibilities and do not have time to look at grammar textbooks and style guides to write correctly.

Digital tools may help them translate or write, but this does not provide them with sufficient explanations and relevant examples. Consequently, they are likely to make the same mistakes in their writing.

A few years ago, my student told me, “My native English-speaking colleagues behave as if they’re the expert when they aren’t. I’m the registered accountant; they’re clerks and administrative assistants. I always find my correspondence scrutinised for simple grammar mistakes.”

When your grammar is weak and vocabulary limited, you can be perceived as lacking in ability or are inexperienced, which is a harsh and unfair judgement that demotivates and destroys confidence. If you do not want to experience this, you have to learn how to produce clear, concise and coherent correspondence with correct grammar and precise vocabulary.

I hope this book “Clear, Concise and Unpretentious (CCU) – a guide for everyday writing” will help you become a confident and effective writer and communicator.