It’s hard to know what to do with it, and it’s super hard not to get defensive in the face of it.
The topic of negative feedback has come up lately in different forms:
- a parent commenting on the pervasive tough feedback of the French education system
- my sister who is reading a book about how to give and receive feedback in hopes of supporting her fellows to become better doctors
- a Toastmaster’s meeting where I was taught the Toastmaster’s method of giving feedback. (Sandwich style, if you are curious.)
This is my take on feedback and here are some questions to ask yourself when you get feedback:
1) Is the feedback based in facts or an interpretation?
Often times when we give and receive feedback it is not based on facts, but based on our interpretation or opinion. “Your speech was awful” versus “You said the word ‘like’ at least 10 times during the 2 minutes of your speech.” In this example, one is a personal opinion, and the other is about what the person actually did--a fact.
Other times we have opinions that are not directly tied to what the person did, but to who they are. If we said, “You are awful,” that is about the person, not about what they did or didn’t do.
One time I made the mistake of telling a boss that she had a reputation for being a bitch. It didn’t go over well. I didn’t know then what I know now. What kind of feedback is that anyway?
We can do a lot more learning if we are presented with facts, then if we are presented with opinions. Opinions change depending on the person. The facts don’t.
2) Who is giving the feedback?
When receiving feedback, it’s important to think about who is giving it and what their motives are. Even the people close to us can have motives that we don’t understand. Sometimes, people can feel afraid, threatened or jealous, and it comes out in their feedback. (With my bitch comment--I was a disgruntled second in command)
Feedback often means more about the person giving it then it does about us.
I recently gave a free coaching session to someone and she said that she would be interested in further coaching, but my coaching rates were too high.
I could take her feedback to mean a number of things:
- My rates are too high and I better lower them.
- Coaching in general isn’t a valued profession and I better find another one.
- My rates are too high for her budget.
- She doesn’t see the importance of coaching in her life, and thus doesn’t want to place value on it and pay my rates.
Two ways are about me, the other two are about her.
I took it to mean the later two. Her feedback about my prices isn’t about me and my value as a person or a coach. It’s about who I am connecting with and how.
3) Is this feedback going to help me reach my goals?
If you give a speech just because you have to give a speech, you might not care about the feedback you get because it doesn’t align with your goals. Your goal was to give a speech, and you did.
If your goal was to give a speech in which you didn’t use the word “like” more than 5 times, then the feedback about your use of the word “like” is feedback you want to consider. Any feedback outside of your goals might be food for thought, or it might not. It’s up to you to chose.
My fellow coach, Amy Smith has a great analogy when it comes to dealing with feedback. She says that feedback is like a gift left on your doorstep. There are people who leave you wonderful, exciting and useful presents. Some people leave you gifts that look pretty, but you can’t really use. Other people leave you crap that you can’t use. And still others actually shit on your doorstep.
At the end of the day, you get to decide what to bring into your house, and what you want to leave outside.