See the original version of this article on LinkedIn Pulse.
Each of us holds a pretty clear image of ourselves in our minds; strong enough that it is often uncomfortable and even painful to hear things that oppose that image. This is one possible reason why we avoid seeking feedback from others.
As our team at Globalme grows, we start to deal with a wider range of personalities. Through this, it has become quite apparent to me that people at work too often choose silence and consequently, dissatisfaction from other’s behaviors, rather than trying to solve the problem with an honest conversation. This behavior is all too common in the workplace and damages team efficiency and dynamic. Indeed, it seems that people fear feedback as much as they fear public speaking.
However, lack of feedback in people’s daily interactions is not only confined to the workplace. We often avoid honest conversations in our private lives as well – either because it is uncomfortable or because we fear hurting others. How many relationships do you know that have fallen apart due to lack of feedback or honest conversations?
I clearly remember a difficult conversation I had with my husband when he said something that hurt my feelings. While at first I thought his words were hurtful, a little hindsight made me realize that I was hurt because he was right. I heard things that were uncomfortable and unpleasant to hear. In the midst of our heated conversation, I had to quickly decide how to react: I could get offended and stubbornly rebuttal whatever he was saying, or, I could take his feedback as a pure truth and deal with it. I ended up choosing the latter and am grateful that I did; from that moment on, my relationship to feedback changed.
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A dear friend of mine and an amazing coach and mentor once told me, “Feedback should not be taken as criticism, but as an opportunity for growth”. Her words will always stay with me; it was a new and powerful outlook on feedback that I continue to embrace to this day. Since then, I have been searching for ideas on how to encourage giving feedback with the aim of making it part of the bare bones of our corporate culture. Although it’s still in the works, I have come across a few interesting observations that have helped in developing that culture:
Treat Feedback as a Gift
Receiving feedback is a rare occurrence. Treat it as a gift that someone offers to you. Even though it may be uncomfortable, it will open the door to a better you. Not knowing how others feel or think of you is like a living in an airless room without windows or access to the outside word. Open your heart to receiving feedback or even seek it out for yourself; doing so will allow you the opportunity to discover things you did not know about yourself and learn from it.
Be Aware: Feedback is Inevitable
The primary function of our brain is to protect ourselves from external harm. Even though verbal feedback doesn’t pose a direct threat to our life, it can trigger a flight or fight response. The natural reaction to negative feedback is to feel hurt, to withdraw, or even be tempted to end your relationship with the ‘feedback-giver’. These feelings are nothing more than nature speaking through your emotions. There is nothing you can do to avoid it; you have to go through the motions. But what you can do is to stay aware and observe yourself; to make sure the logical part of your brain stays on through the flood of emotions. Once you are able to inject a glimpse of objectivity in any given situation, you will break the link between that unpleasant feedback and your strong emotional response.
Create a Feedback-Friendly Environment
Whether at work or at home, make feedback a part of your life. Make others feel safe in giving or receiving feedback, and help them realize the ways in which they will benefit from it. After all, feedback should not be used to hurt anyone, but rather to help them to grow.
Be True to Yourself
While you may not agree with someone else’s feedback about your behavior, remember to be honest with yourself. If more than one person provided you with similar feedback, chances are there is some merit to what they are saying.
Learn How to Give Feedback
Not knowing how to give feedback is equally as problematic as not knowing how to receive it. The words you choose, the tone you use, or the way you communicate that feedback will impact the reaction of the ‘feedback-receiver’. It is well worth it to invest in learning the most effective way of handling difficult conversations.
Decide What to do Next
Finally, once you receive some feedback, decide what to do with it. You can either ignore it and keep going on with your life, or you can act on it. Humans don’t like change, so it’s not surprising that our first, automated response is to ignore or defend. But remember, ignoring the unpleasant truth about yourself means you are passing up an opportunity for growth. Change won’t be easy, but surely it is the smarter choice in the long run.
In the end, receiving feedback on our performance gives us meaning. We have something to look forward to and feel accomplished when we learn new skills and develop new habits. So, why not give feedback the attention it deserves?