Is “Feedback” a Dirty Word?

I was having a chat with a government employee today and he said that he wanted to have a “culture of feedback” in his department.  His background was investigative where it was common practice to come together as a group, share information and offer feedback to each other.  They would work together so that the end result was greater than any of them could have done alone.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????His idea of feedback is sharing so that the whole team is made better. It makes sense.

Not many of us approach the idea of feedback that way.  We often respond to it as criticism and a personal threat. My sense is we do that because most of us have experienced “feedback” that was hurtful, attacking, a put down, and shame producing. I don’t know about you, but after receiving “feedback” like that, I become less open to hearing more of the same.

Yet, if we aren’t open for feedback, we send the message to others not to give it to us and they won’t.  Soon we are operating with limited information.  We don’t know if what we are doing is working or not working.  We are, at best, guessing. We need to know what others are thinking so we can make adjustments.

I’ve been in a writers critique group for years and I remember in the early days having emotional reactions to the critique of my fellow writers.  Since having learned to manage the critique better, I notice I get much fuller and more specific feedback.  It was like my colleagues knew that I was reacting to their feedback so they filtered what they said to me.  Now I get lots of good feedback and it has helped my writing immensely.

Learning to receive feedback is a skill to be learned.  Here are some tips to help with receiving feedback well:

1/ Remember that feedback is about fostering your own growth.

2/ Seek out people who can give you balanced as well as supportive feedback.

3/ Ask for coaching. You are the most important person in your own growth. Know you’re surrounded by people you can learn from.

4/ When you find yourself reacting to what someone is saying – manage your internal dialogue and become curious.  Remember, you get to decide what you want to do with the feedback you’re given.

5/ Feedback is always about how the other person perceives things.  It is neither right nor wrong.  It’s just their perspective. If you can keep that in mind, you can make choices about how you want to respond. You can listen and enquire.  You can assert yourself and then enquire.  You can listen to some of it.  You can listen and then decide to ignore it.  It’s all up to you.

A book that I highly recommend is “Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well” by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen.  All the best with the feedback coming your way!

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