The Art of Giving Feedback as an ASL Interpreter: A Compassionate Approach

Understanding the Need for Feedback

As an ASL Interpreter, you are not just a language service provider but also a vital link in fostering authentic relationships between the Deaf and hearing communities. You play a significant role in empowering the Deaf community with reliable access to well-qualified, trustworthy interpreters. One essential element to excel in this role is the ability to give and receive feedback constructively.

Feedback can be sensitive and often met with resistance or skepticism if not handled skillfully. Offering advice as an ASL Interpreter requires you to do so from a heart of compassion, patience, and understanding. This approach paves the way for your feedback to be heard and appreciated, further fostering a positive impact on the communities we serve.


Preliminary Steps Before Giving Feedback

Before venturing into offering feedback, it is crucial to reflect on certain points to ensure your advice is well-received:

  1. Reflect on Your Intentions: Make sure your feedback stems from a desire to help the individual improve rather than a reaction to something that you personally dislike. Your advice should not be emotionally charged or based on impatience, biases, judgments, or ego.
  2. Respect Individual Differences: Understand and appreciate that we all approach tasks differently. Before giving advice, ask yourself if this is truly a matter of importance or simply a matter of preference or individual approach.
  3. Ensure Accuracy: Make sure you have a comprehensive understanding of the situation before offering feedback. Ensure you’re not taking things out of context or misunderstanding the situation.
  4. Assess Your Role: Are you the appropriate person to offer this advice? If you are not a trusted colleague or respected guide to the person, reconsider if it’s your place to offer your opinion.
  5. Be Mindful of the Recipient’s Feelings: Consider how the person will feel when you offer advice. Plan your approach to ensure your feedback is received openly and is conducive to reflection and change.
  6. Maintain a Calm Demeanor: Be mindful of your body language and emotional state. Aggressive stances and disapproving facial expressions can raise defenses. Soften your physical appearance and cultivate a compassionate demeanor before you speak.


The Five Qualities of Constructive Feedback

Constructive feedback should possess five essential qualities: honesty, benefit, altruism, kindness, and timeliness.

  1. Honesty: Your feedback should be truthful, and you must ensure that your understanding of the situation is accurate and holistic.
  2. Benefit: Ensure that your feedback aims to help the individual improve and become a better part of the community or as an individual.
  3. Altruism: The desire to provide feedback should come from a place of generosity and compassion, not from ego or aversion.
  4. Kindness: Your tone should be kind, thoughtful, and considerate, even while being firm. Avoid harsh or condescending language.
  5. Timeliness: Choose the right time and environment to offer feedback. Gauge if the person is receptive, too emotionally involved, or excited to take it constructively.


Delivering Feedback with Care

Once you’ve ensured your feedback aligns with the five essential qualities, you can construct and deliver your feedback skilfully:

  1. Prepare and Rehearse: Carefully consider the specific words and phrasing you will use. Once spoken, words cannot be unheard or “taken back.”
  2. Ask for Permission: Being respectful and asking if the person would like your feedback establishes trust. If they decline, respect their decision.
  3. Communicate the Observed Behaviour: Show empathy and acknowledge the other person’s perspective before providing feedback.
  4. Provide Your Feedback


Providing Your Feedback

After considering your intentions, checking the appropriateness of the time and place, and asking permission, you’re ready to give your advice. Here are a few tips for doing so skillfully and compassionately:

  1. Be Specific and Factual: Instead of making generalized statements, be specific and focus on the facts. For example, instead of saying, “You’re always late,” you could say, “I noticed you were late for our last three meetings.”
  2. Use “I” Statements: Express your feedback from your own perspective to avoid sounding accusatory or judgmental. For instance, instead of saying, “You’re not contributing enough to the project,” you could say, “I’ve noticed that I’ve been taking on a lot of the tasks for the project, and I’m feeling overwhelmed.”
  3. Offer Constructive Suggestions: Instead of just pointing out what’s wrong, offer ideas for improvement. For example, if you’re giving feedback on someone’s interpreting skills, you could share how you would have done it, suggest specific ways to improve, or suggest a professional development opportunity specific to what you’re suggesting.
  4. Balance Positive and Negative: If possible, balance constructive criticism with positive feedback. This can make the other person more receptive to your advice and boost their motivation to improve.

Remember, delivering feedback is not just about being honest but also about being kind and respectful. It’s about helping others grow, not just pointing out their mistakes.


Cultivating Compassion and Empathy

 When offering advice or feedback, it’s crucial to cultivate an attitude of empathy and compassion. This means understanding the other person’s experiences, feelings, and thoughts. When we understand where they’re coming from, we’re more likely to give relevant and helpful advice. It also means caring about their wellbeing and wanting to alleviate any suffering or difficulties they’re experiencing. When you develop a genuine concern for others’ wellbeing, they’re more likely to feel that and appreciate your advice, even if they disagree.


Practicing Mindful Listening

Before and after giving advice, it’s important to practice mindful listening. This means paying full attention to the other person without planning what you’re going to say next or judging them. It involves being fully present and open to their perspective, even if it differs from your own.

Mindful listening is a powerful way to show respect and understanding. It creates a safe space where the other person feels heard and valued, which can make them more open to your advice. It also helps you to better understand their situation and needs, which can guide you in giving more effective advice.


Accepting Imperfection and Uncertainty

Despite our best intentions and efforts, we won’t always get it right. We might give advice that’s not well-received or helpful. We might say the right thing but at the wrong time or in the wrong way. That’s okay. We’re all human, and we’re all learning.

When this happens, it’s important to practice self-compassion and forgive ourselves. We can reflect on the situation, learn from it, and use it as a stepping stone for growth. We can also apologize if our advice hurts others and try to make amends.

In some situations, despite all our reflections and preparations, we might still be unsure whether to give advice or what to give. That’s also okay. We can’t control or predict everything. We can only do our best with the information and resources we have and accept that uncertainty is a part of life.



Offering advice involves deeply considering our intentions, the other person’s needs, and the context before we speak. It also involves accepting that we won’t always get it right and using those situations as opportunities for growth.

While this approach requires effort and practice, it can significantly improve our relationships and communication. It can help us become more understanding, wise, and compassionate. It can also benefit those we interact with by providing them with advice that’s more helpful and respectful.

And even when we choose not to offer advice, we can still practice loving-kindness and wish for others’ wellbeing. This is a powerful form of help and a beautiful expression of our shared humanity.

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