The Empowerment Pyramid

Given a credible timetable, group members typically will take notes during the presentation, carefully prepare their comments, and provide their feedback after the presentation. This model will be particularly successful if the initial presentation is short, or if it is broken into five- or ten-minute chunks with feedback after each chunk. It will also be successful if group members, at some early point, learn about and are given an opportunity to practice, observe, or read about the specific type of feedback that is desired.

Whatever the feedback process being employed, it is particularly important that an appreciative norm be established regarding the purpose of the feedback. Appreciative feedback is oriented primarily to the needs and interests of the person requesting the feedback, not those of the person conveying the feedback. Rarely will feedback that is unsolicited and unwanted be effective in changing the opinions, ideas, or behavior of another person. The person who is requesting the feedback needs to receive it directly, not via a secondary source. Whenever possible, the feedback should be given by someone who will be affected directly by the suggestion being made, behavior being emitted, etc. Secondary speculation about possible impact is much less desirable than direct testimony.

Appreciative feedback is conveyed in a sensitive and careful manner, with the sender checking frequently to be sure that the message is being received accurately. Even feedback that affirms a recipient’s values or self-perceptions should be checked for accuracy. The recipient is likely to overestimate the degree of affirmation being offered by the sender or is likely to discount what is being said. This reflects the pervasive inability in our contemporary society to accept compliments or support from others. Informational meetings that incorporate appreciative feedback not only make the participants feel good, they also enable the group to do a better job of receiving, interpreting, distilling, and making use of the information that is held by its members.

Appreciative Perspectives on Conflict

Even with effective communication and appreciative feedback, members of a group will create or become involved in conflicts that disrupt group functioning. Members of a group begin to recognize their differences of opinion and differing styles and values precisely because members of the group have communicated successfully with one another. Difference of opinion and perspective are now apparent. Pandora’s box has been opened. It can never again be closed without disrupting the preliminary trust that has been built in the group.

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