The Gift in Feedback – by Mary Miscisin
We have all experienced a time in our lives when we did not like the way someone delivered a message to us or did not think the feedback given was valid. It could be for a variety of reasons. Perhaps we simply did not like the person giving the feedback because of prior experiences with them. Maybe we do like the person but we attached a meaning to their words, body language or message and therefore got our feeling hurt.
At times we may not recognize our own behaviors or characteristics and may be unaware of how they affect others. Sometimes we do recognize our behaviors yet we frame them differently than others, therefore what might be considered a positive attribute by one person, could be viewed as a negative one by another.
So why pay attention at all?
Feedback is a Gift!
When you receive some feedback and get the urge to reject it, PAUSE and remember that feedback is a gift. We just may not recognize it, at first. It may not be packaged in the most attractive way. In fact it may not even seem like a gift at all. But it is. Remember the saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover?” this is also true with feedback. One thing for sure about feedback is the more open you are to receiving it, the greater the potential for discovering the treasure.
Using Feedback to Your Advantage
The following are ways to shift your mindset so that you can benefit from the feedback you receive.
1. Generally describe the feedback that was offered and what context it was in.
Specifically what was the feedback? Just the facts, not including your interpretations. Eliminate your “stuff” from the equation for now, such as, you didn’t like their tone of voice, they didn’t make eye contact, you got feedback you didn’t expect, felt unappreciated, got your feelings hurt or felt picked on. This is all your “stuff.” Next, dig past their “stuff.” Their jealousy, judgment, past baggage, anger, resentment, jumping to conclusions, sarcasm, fear… Think of only the feedback—pure and simple.
Example of feedback without “stuff” added: “You wear too much perfume.”
2. Notice your immediate reaction.
One person’s immediate reaction could be, “Who the heck are you to judge how much perfume I wear? It’s none of your business!”
Pause and ask yourself, “What meaning have I linked to this?”
The comment could have been interpreted as meaning that the other person was cruel, self-righteous, and picking on them.
3. Could there be an alternate explanation?
Ask yourself the question: “What was their intended good?” Keeping in mind that feedback is a gift and the reason a person offers it is to help improve something, find a positive reason for the feedback. Now is the time to make interpretations—positive ones.
Example of alternate positive interpretation:
The woman is concerned about her health. She has allergies. Her daughter has asthma that is triggered by perfume. Others have commented about your perfume and she is the only one brave enough to say something because she cares about you and knows you would not like people making fun of you behind your back.
4. Clarify – are you even talking about the same thing?
Find out whether you are actually referring to the same thing. Can you remember a time when you were arguing over something and somewhere along the line you discovered that you had in mind something totally different than the other person and were arguing over two different things? I know it has happened to me. Clarify to make sure.
Example Clarification: “When you say I wear too much perfume, is this all of the time? Specifically what do you mean by too much? Please tell me more.”
5. Ask yourself – how can I use this?
Once you have created some alternative meanings and verified specifics, determine how you can possibly use the information. Brainstorm options. Using the perfume example, perhaps you could survey a few others about whether they think you wear too much.
A real estate agent friend of mine found out that he was actually losing clients—they did not like to ride in the car with him because they were bothered by his heavy cologne. They really liked him and found him friendly and nice but avoided him nonetheless because of the cologne. He had some choice about what to do with this information.
6. Choose an option and use it.
The amazing thing about finding the nugget in the feedback you receive is how much you can grow and benefit from using it.
After surveying his friends and co-workers and being honestly open to hearing their feedback, he cut down on his use of cologne. Since he has done so, his sales have increased and people give him hugs (which he likes) much more often. He is very happy with the results.
Remember that many people have a hard time giving feedback because they are afraid that the person will interpret it wrong. Don’t fall into the trap of becoming a close-minded, suspicious individual that behaves as a victim and misconstrues helpful information as negative. Instead choose to stay open-minded, give the benefit of the doubt and use the gifts you are given.
Feedback is a Gift!