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2.5: Provide Ethical Feedback

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    Ethical speakers and listeners are able to provide quality feedback to others. Ethical feedback is a descriptive and explanatory response to the speaker. Brownell explains that a response to a speaker should demonstrate that you have listened and considered the content and delivery of the message. Responses should respect the position of the speaker while being honest about your attitudes, values, and beliefs.

    Praising the speaker’s message or delivery can help boost his or her confidence and encourage good speaking behaviors. However, ethical feedback does not always have to be completely positive in nature.

    Constructive criticism acknowledges that a speaker is not perfect and can improve upon the content or delivery of the message. In fact, constructive criticism is helpful in perfecting a speaker’s content or speaking style. Ethical feedback always explains the listener’s opinion in detail. Unethical feedback can be false, or inauthentic as it may only provide positive comments, but no specific information on what you experienced as a listener. Table \(\PageIndex{1}\) provides examples of unethical and ethical feedback.

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\): Unethical and Ethical Feedback
    Type of Feedback Examples

    Unethical Feedback

    • I really enjoyed your speech. (Not specific).

    • Your speech lacks supportive information. (Not specific).

    • You are the worst public speaker ever. (Inappropriate)

    Ethical Feedback

    • I really enjoyed your speech because your topic was personally interesting to me.

    • I did not hear source citations in your speech.

    • I had difficulty discerning your main points, perhaps because I did not hear transitions between them.

    As you can see from the example feedback statements (Table \(\PageIndex{1}\)), ethical feedback is always explanatory. Ethical statements explain why you find the speaker effective or ineffective.

    Another guideline for ethical feedback is to “phrase your comments as personal perceptions” by using “I” language (Sellnow, 2009). Feedback that employs the “I” pronoun displays personal preference regarding the speech and communicates responsibility for the comments. Feedback can focus on the speaker’s delivery, content, style, visual aid, or attire. Be sure to support your claims—by giving a clear explanation of your opinion—when providing feedback to a speaker.

    Feedback should also support ethical communication behaviors from speakers by asking for more information and pointing out relevant information (Jensen, 1997). It is clear that providing ethical feedback is an important part of the listening process and, thus, of the public speaking process.

    A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world.

    ~ Albert Camus

    Contributors and Attributions

    2.5: Provide Ethical Feedback is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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