The Father Factor

A Simple, Potent Combo for Providing Feedback to Dads

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Aug 21, 2019



When was the last time someone gave you feedback, on anything?

How did you react? Were you open to it? Did you react positively or negatively to it?

Chances are that how you reacted depended on the type of feedback they used, the manner in which they delivered it, and the quality of your relationship with them.

Receiving quality feedback from others helps us grow. It helps us improve our performance in any area of life. It helps us see what we already do well so that we can do more of it. It helps us see when we’re basically on track and can improve with a tweak here or there. It helps us see our blind spots so that we can completely change course.

It’s Better to Give Than to Receive

On the flip side of receiving feedback is providing it. The ability to provide quality feedback is an essential communication skill to develop if we want to help others improve. The problem is most of us are either unwilling to provide feedback because we’re afraid how others will react to it or simply don’t know what quality feedback looks like and how to provide it.

That’s why I was so pleased to learn about two types of feedback and the most appropriate use for each one. Use them to provide quality feedback to the dads you serve.

  • Appreciation: Use appreciation to show that you are grateful for or approve of a dad’s effort. Use it when you want to motivate him.
  • Advice: Give advice to a dad to suggest things about a specific behavior he needs to repeat or change. Use it when you want him to improve his performance as a dad.

Appreciation is a tool of emotion. Advice is a tool of logic. When you use both tools, you appeal to the emotional and rational sides of the brain. While you might need to use only one type of feedback depending on the situation, when you use them together, they’re a potent combination.

Here’s an example of how you might use them.

Nate and Karen

You have just started to work one-on-one with Nate, a noncustodial dad of 5-year-old Jason. During your first meeting, Nate shares that his strongest wish is to increase the time he spends with Jason.

Unfortunately, Nate has a poor relationship with Jason’s mom, Karen. Every time Nate asks to spend time with Jason, Karen builds a wall. Nate’s been persistent. He’s run into Karen’s wall repeatedly. Unfortunately, he’s started to get discouraged.

You quickly surmise that Nate’s challenge is that he must approach Karen in a way such that she doesn’t build a wall. Nate’s problem is that he continues to ask to spend time with Jason without tackling the problem that causes Karen to build a wall. That’s what he doesn’t get.

You know that for Nate to spend time with Jason he must first improve the relationship with Karen. To motivate Nate to keep trying and not become discouraged to the point of giving up, you tell him how much you appreciate his effort to spend time with Jason. It shows how much he wants to be an involved dad. You tell Nate that his persistence is a strength that will serve him well as you work together to increase his time with Jason.

Now that Nate is sufficiently motivated—and hopeful now that he has you on his side—you use an awareness-raising tool called analogical thinking as a transition to giving him advice on the need to change course. You also sprinkle in the 5 Whys technique.*

  • (You) Nate. I want you to step away from this situation for a moment and come at this problem in a different way by answering a question. How did medieval queens and kings protect themselves against invaders?
  • (Nate) They built walls. Some also built moats.
  • (You) Beyond the clear desire to keep invaders out, why else did they build walls and moats?
  • (Nate) Because they were scared of the invaders.
  • (You) Why were they scared of the invaders?
  • (Nate) Because they wanted to protect themselves and their subjects.
  • (You) That’s right. Now, can you apply their reason for building walls and moats to your situation?
  • (Nate) Oh. I get it. Karen builds a wall because she sees me as an invader and wants to protect herself and Jason.

Now that Nate gets it, you start to explore why Karen sees him as an invader and wants to protect herself and Jason. You give Nate advice to change course. He must approach Karen to work on their relationship. You tell him not to address time spent with Jason until his relationship with Karen improves. You tell him to focus on and be open to Karen’s input on why she thinks she must protect herself and Jason. You tell him that he must be open to changing his behavior towards her. You teach Nate communication skills to use during his talks with Karen.

I hope you will use appreciation and advice with the dads you serve. A bonus is that as you become skilled at using them, you can teach them to dads so that they can provide quality feedback in their personal and professional lives.

Do you use appreciation or advice appropriately with the dads you serve?

If you use appreciation and advice, have you taught dads how to use them?

*Analogical thinking helps people solve challenging problems. It involves searching for and identifying similar situations or scenarios in different domains that might seem at first to have little in common with the problem at hand. It’s effective because it forces people to think outside of their normal inclination to look for similar situations in the same domain. It opens their minds to possibilities they wouldn’t have considered otherwise. It helps people see what they won’t otherwise.

National Fatherhood Initiative® teaches the 5 Whys technique in our Effective Facilitation Certificate™.

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