Feedback: How to give it, receive it, ask for it, and grow from it.

Feedback: How to give it, receive it, ask for it, and grow from it.

Feedback is about giving information in a way that encourages the recipient to accept it, reflect on it, learn from it, and hopefully make changes for the better.

Encourages…change for the better? If this is true, why do we as hate getting feedback so much?  If someone tells you they love getting feedback, ask them again right after they receive it. No one really gets excited about being given feedback, especially in the moment. In fact, just the thought of it causes us to put on our suits of armor so we are fully prepared to defend ourselves. Feedback is a word we associate with painful conversations, favoritism, politics, resentment – all of which cause self-doubt. No one asks, “Hey can I give you some feedback?” and then goes on to say something positive. What they really mean to do is to provide you with constructive criticism to help you identify something they perceive you are doing wrong. Because of that, feedback has a branding problem – a negative reputation we’ve built upon one lousy experience at a time.

If we stop and think about the true value of feedback, we would see it has just been given a bad rap. In order to improve, grow, and advance in anything – whether it’s in our career or in our life – we need insights and help from others. Feedback can lift us up, help us understand our strengths, show us pathways to achieve that next step, and sometimes even change the course of our lives.

Many people mistakenly regard receiving feedback as an unpleasant exercise to be avoided if possible and minimized if absolutely necessary. Truly successful individuals understand feedback is a special gift because it is something we can’t give ourselves. We can buy ourselves a new watch or new clothes, but we can’t provide ourselves the knowledge of how we are perceived by others unless we ask.

Go out and ask for some feedback! Here’s the thing: it’s not necessarily easy to draw feedback out of people. If you’re not getting feedback from others, perhaps you weren’t open to it in the past and they have just given up trying… maybe they are too nice, or maybe they are just too intimidated to be honest with you.

Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture said, “When you’re screwing up and nobody is saying anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you…you may not want to hear it, but your critics are often the ones telling you they still love you and care about you and want to make you better.”

When asking others for feedback, be clear on what you want. For example, say “I don’t need nice – I need honest feedback that will help me grow.” Use the following guidelines to help you be more open to feedback:

  • Avoid being defensive or explaining it away
  • Avoid judging the feedback you get
  • Thank them for being honest with you
  • Let them know you find their comments and views helpful

The minute you get defensive, people will stop being honest and opt for being polite. If they know you sincerely want the truth and won’t react negatively, you will get more honest feedback more often. Let feedback lift you up, help you understand your strengths, show you pathways to achieve that next step, and maybe even change the course of your life.