Was it good for you?
Feedback is a two-way street, a double-edged sword sometimes, and a sure-fire opportunity to learn something. It may not always be pleasant, and at times it can be downright painful, but the way we give and take feedback reveals much about ourselves. If you really want to grow, you have to ASK to KNOW. But first, there are a few things to consider before having the conversation, “was it good for you?”
Feedback and commentary are easily confused.
Just because someone reacts to something you have said or done, does not make it feedback. If someone offers a comment, that does not mean you have to internalize it and reinvent yourself. Feedback is special. It is an opportunity, and in some instances, the only way, to elevate a situation. Feedback, most often, is solicited by someone in hopes that they can improve something. The act of requesting feedback in itself is a show of great courage. We must appreciate any individual who values our opinions enough to ask for them.
So what separates feedback from commentary?
When do we need to pay attention and we do we let it roll off our back? The graduate school answer is that IT DEPENDS! Among other things, the most important consideration with feedback is the source. If you’re taking feedback from someone, what investment do they have in your success? Are they invested at all? If you’re giving feedback, what’s your motivation for doing so? What will you gain from the implementation of your feedback?
To be actionable feedback must be:
Built on TRUST.
Objectivity is the key distinction between feedback and commentary.
Objective feedback is given without attachment and received without judgment. An example of objective feedback might be if you were asked to shorten a presentation to allow for questions. It seems logical that a presentation would elicit questions from a group and better to answer those in person than to follow up later. This is insightful feedback that will make the presentation better and improve the experience of the audience. In this way, objective feedback can open our eyes to an area of needed improvement and empower us. It helps us understand how some adjustments can elevate the situation and streamline potential issues. When we feel someone wants to help us be better, we are more willing to listen to what they have to say.
On the other hand, feedback can make us feel vulnerable. Whether you’re giving or receiving feedback, it can feel icky to be that honest. It can sting to hear someone tell us something we know is a little bit true, even if it’s not exactly positive. Just as it can be very uncomfortable to tell someone something that may hurt their feelings. Consider that it takes two parties to have successful feedback. The other person in the situation likely feels just as uncomfortable, but here they are. They cared enough to want to help you.
Feedback must be received to be acted upon.
Remember last week, when that jerk on the highway nearly ran you off the road, only to pass you on the right without signaling, and then gave YOU the middle finger? That is definitely a form of feedback, but it’s not likely to be received. You’re not going to chase down that motorist, apologize for upsetting them, and ask what you can do better next time, are you? Shit no! You’re going to dismiss it as commentary because you’re not invested. This person’s appraisal of your driving skills means precisely NADA to you, so you can easily let it go.
However, when one of your clients says they are moving their business elsewhere, you stop and listen. You’re invested in their feedback. You want to know what, if anything, could have been done to change the outcome or prevent it in the future. We are much more receptive to this type of feedback because it’s relevant. We believe we can learn something from it and in some cases, we are brave enough to seek it out. You know how people say food tastes better when you’re hungry? Feedback is the same way. You need to have an appetite for it...
Lastly, good feedback that helps us improve is built on trust.
When you ask someone for feedback, it is because you trust that they care enough about you to steer you in a better direction than you could go alone. When you provide feedback, you are sharing with someone you desire to help because you believe they are capable. Feedback can be a beautiful tool for building trust and fostering growth. When two or more parties trust that they are invested in one another’s greater good, they begin to see feedback as more of an opportunity to improve and less like a walk down the plank.
Sometimes we don’t give feedback. We worry it doesn’t matter, we worry that we will hurt someone’s feelings, or we don’t care enough to get involved. All of these are perfectly valid reasons, but let’s rewind a minute. A person asking for our feedback values what we have to say. It is terrifying to ask someone what they think because they may actually tell you. I’ll say it again...It is terrifying to ask someone what they think because they may actually tell you. Unfortunately, that’s part of life. I mean, they call them growing pains for a reason. Ever heard of brutal honesty? It’s a form of feedback too. If you’re asked for feedback, trust that the person requesting it wants to hear your organic authentic response. Take the leap of faith, and the experience just may surprise you.
Somewhere between compulsive commenters and the ones who clam up are the people in your tribe that have your back. If you really want to grow, you have to seek opportunities. You have to ask to know what and how you can improve. So get out there, get brave, and ask for feedback. Hopefully, now you have the tools to sift through the bullshit and glean for those glimmering nuggets of truth-gold :)