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One Breath Feedback Exercise

This exercise trains people to give short and focused feedback. Participants can speak during just one breath.

By Gustavo Razzetti

December 6, 2019

One of the biggest challenges we all have when providing feedback is to stay focused. Most of us can’t remember too many things at once; long, detailed feedback can confuse the receiver.

Also, after receiving feedback, people need time to decant it.

This feedback exercise forces people to stick to the point. They have to provide feedback during one breath, helping people stay focused.

What Is the One-Breath Feedback?

This feedback round limits feedback time to one breath. Unless participants are experienced scuba divers or yoga practitioners, most won’t last more than a minute or two.

The one-breath feedback exercise is perfect for closing a meeting or session. It’s also a powerful way to encourage people to start giving feedback more often.

Each participant has to provide feedback to the person to their left. Once they’ve finished giving feedback, the receiver becomes the giver, and so on.

This exercise provides a friendly and practical way to help each other learn and grow by removing the stigma from giving feedback.

How to Facilitate the One Breath Feedback Exercise

Giving feedback is difficult, but it doesn’t have to be that hard. Facilitate this exercise and see how people will become better at both getting and receiving feedback.

Arrange the team in a circle. Limit each group to most of 7 people each.

Explain to the participants that they will give feedback to each other. Tell them that, before giving feedback, they have to take a deep breath. Once they run out of air, their turn ends, and the next person takes over.

Mind that people stick to the one-breath rule. Encourage the group to ensure that everyone abides by it.

Choose who will start. The first person has to provide feedback to the individual on their left. Then, the person who was receiving feedback (the receiver) becomes the giver.

Repeat until everyone has participated. If you have time, you can do more than one round. People can provide feedback to the person on their right now, or everyone can switch places.

Giving Simple Feedback: Facilitation Tips

I usually like to keep the structure open by simply asking people to share what comes to mind.

You can also apply the structure “I like about you that…” and “Next time, I wish…” Everyone must follow that pattern to keep the experience consistent. Mind people that the first part is about acknowledging what they like about others and the second is about sharing areas of improvement.

This exercise is anything but threatening; it’s perfect for getting people more excited about giving and providing feedback. It can also be used during a closing round, or as part of a team retrospective.

I use this exercise very often when teams are not used to giving regular feedback to each other.

The one-minute feedback is also great to create a peer-to-peer practice. Most organizations approach feedback as something that managers should provide to their subordinates. Building a culture of feedback requires to encourage everyone to help each other grow regardless of their titles or experience.

Usually, when people take too long to provide feedback, not only they confuse the receiver but also bore everybody. Ask people to reflect on the benefits of sticking to the point.

Credit

The first time I heard about this exercise was watching this video by Martin Farrell.

What do you think?

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