Interpersonal Leadership: Communication
“Disclosure: Responsive Feedback” (SL#48)
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 7.3
Interpersonal Communication

  1. Clearly, communication takes place when there is
    a cycle of disclosure and feedback.
    Disclosure takes place
    when you let someone else know what you are thinking, feeling, wanting, intending.
    Feedback, our major point here, is your responding to disclosure to you from
    others. Example:

    • Disclosure (other person): “I’m angry
      that you canceled the church picnic.”

      The act of disclosing, uncovering, or revealing; bringing to light; exposure.
      He feels it [his secret] beating at his heart, rising to his throat, and
      demanding disclosure. (Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary)
    • Feedback (you): “I was disappointed too! We’ve
      all worked so hard, but the leadership team thought the lightening storm
      too great a risk. Perhaps there was a better way to communicate our decision.”

      The return of information about the result of a process or activity; an
      evaluative response: asked the students for feedback on the new curriculum.
      (The American Heritage® Dictionary)

    Responsive feedback is of primary importance in developing effective interpersonal
    communication. It should be a continuous part of the communication loop–not
    just a specific closing function of a conversation. How are you doing? “Feedback
    is the breakfast of champions.”
    –Rick Tate

    This article builds on David W. Johnson’s definition in Reaching
    : “Feedback–disclosing how you are perceiving and reacting
    to another person’s behavior to provide him or her with constructive
    information to help the person become aware of the effectiveness of his
    or her actions.”

    Johnson also discusses five alternative ways that we can listen and respond
    (feedback) to another person; each of the ways could be helpful to another
    person’s gaining insight and solving problems (pp. 196-233).

    • Advising and evaluating
    • Analyzing and interpreting
    • Reassuring and supporting
    • Questioning and probing
    • Paraphrasing and understanding
  2. Interpersonal Feedback Patterns
    From the experience and study of many, here are some positive feedback patterns
    to learn and practice.

    • Feedback should seek to be timely–specific, direct, and on the subject
      at hand; not of a general or antiquated nature. Do not “gunnysack”;
      that is, bring in stored feelings and bygone episodes.
    • Valuable feedback usually depends on mutual trust–not on adversarial
      relationships; but you do have to deal with conflict and differences of
    • Feedback is usually valuable to provide clarification and meaning of
      the message–what is said, meant, and expected. Focus does not mean avoiding
      related issues.
    • Feedback is provided by specific questions; by restating the message;
      by confirming its interpretation; by uncovering expected but unstated
      actions. These are ways to shape your feedback within a context.
    • Feedback should reflect your perceptions and feelings, including your
      respect for the other person; face-to-face feedback is best for “feeling
    • Often, feedback should be informative, factual, showing that you have
      correctly heard and interpreted the message; provide correction if error
      has been communicated.
    • Feedback may be verbal, but with congruent, nonverbal signals; pay
      attention to how you sound, look, move, gesture, or fidget.
    • Feedback may at times be in your action or changed behavior, rather
      than words. “’Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ‘I will
      not,’ he answered, but later changed his mind and went.”
    • Feedback is often expressed by probing questions. Jesus asked his disciples,
      “Whom do men say that I am?”
    • Silence can be a powerful form of feedback–encouraging the other to
      proceed with the line of thought. At a most intense encounter, Jesus simply
      wrote in the sand.
    • Feedback should be descriptive, not judgmental or hostile; honest feelings
      are inbounds, but accusations do not usually bring about understanding.
    • Feedback may be better received if it is solicited directly, or implied.
      Feedback can often be checked out through others; you may be the only
      one who sees a person the way you do.

  3. For Reflection/Assessment/Application
    • How well do you include affirming, informative, probing feedback in
      your communication loop? You may want to read the list again and even
      add elements to it.
    • Which element could you set out to improve that would give you immediate
      benefit? Put specific feedback patterns into practice.

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© 2006; hosted and copyrighted by
Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.
For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership