There is apparently an art to giving feedback, and yet even the most suavely and courteously delivered feedback shatters the sturdiest of people. Plus, in many organizations, structured feedback is still a foreign concept. Organizations have allowed self-awareness and reflection to become buzz words that allow us to say we are all-knowing of our strengths and flaws, while we shrink away from any real feedback others may have to offer.
The thought of feedback alone induces fear in most. What do we fear though? We fear being seen in any way other than the way we wish to be seen. Feedback unearths what we see as our dirty secrets – or more gently stated – our flaws. Most of us work diligently to cover up our flaws with expertise, education, years of service, relational abilities, etc. Feedback exposes us, and our fragility emerges resulting in an inability to accept the feedback. Perhaps, receiving feedback is what should be considered an art that ensures we balance our sense of self with what others offer us.
So, how can we receive critical feedback especially when fear, flaws and fragility exist?
- Feedback is an offering. It is an offering from those who care about us (most of the time) or those who need a change from us. To reject the feedback is to reject those who offered it. Instead, accept it and attend to it in the same manner you would anything of value and importance.
- Take the time to grieve the difference between who you think you are and how others perceive you. Feedback brings with it loss – loss of face, loss of identity, loss of connections (how could someone say this about me), loss of self-confidence, loss of safety – this loss must be given space to emerge and settle.
- Name what is true/right in the feedback. It is easiest to find flaws in the feedback, and yet if we can name what is right it gives us an opportunity to focus on that which we must attend to in order to truly grow.
- Focus on themes and do not hone in on words. This will only hurt and this hurt will hold you back from doing the work you need to do.
- Make an action plan to address one-two themes in feedback. The amount we take on to address must not be greater than what our heart can tolerate.
- Thank those who finally shared the good, the bad and the ugly. They too could have just avoided the feedback.