Feedback is crucial in the modern working world. Organisations need it if they’re to respond swiftly to the ever changing market conditions they face, whilst we as individuals crave it on our path of continuous improvement. The importance bestowed upon feedback has prompted a great deal of soul searching about the best way to deliver it. This is undoubtedly important, especially when the feedback is negative, but I want to focus this blog on how we can get better at receiving feedback.
I figure that this is just as crucial, yet often relatively unexplored. If you think about it, the whole point of feedback isn’t the giving of it, but the adaption in behaviour that results from it, so being able to take it on board and change our ways is crucial. Success ultimately lies in our own hands.
Of course, receiving praise is easy. We all love receiving positive feedback about how great we are or what a sterling job we’ve done. Negative feedback is somewhat harder though. We all want to improve, no one really doubts that, but it’s also quite nice to be accepted how we are at the moment. We don’t really like seeing ourselves as a work in progress, so negative feedback can often provoke a rather emotional response from us.
The 3 responses to feedback
Academics Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone, authors of Thanks for the Feedback, are arguably the greatest experts in the world on feedback. They believe there are three distinct triggers that cause our response to feedback to be negative.
- The truth trigger - this revolves around the content contained in the feedback and our general disagreement with it.
- The relationship trigger - which revolves very much around the person giving you the feedback. Who are they to be giving you feedback?
- The identity trigger - hich revolves very much about who you are as a person. If the feedback is about something that is very personal to you, then it’s likely to trigger an emotive response.
You’re probably reading this and recognising some of these yourself. You might even be thinking they’re all perfectly natural, and they are indeed. If you want to get better at accepting feedback, however, we need to work on overcoming them.
Thankfully, Heen and Stone suggest there are a number of ways for you to overcome each one. Self-awareness is their first tip. They believe that we’ve all received a whole lot of feedback down the years, so we should be pretty good at understanding how we tend to react.
Detach the content from the person
It’s also useful to try and detach the content of the feedback from the person that gave it. After all, if the feedback itself is pretty much spot on, should it really matter who the person giving it is? Of course, this isn’t easy, but give it a go.
Differentiate between types of feedback
Not all feedback is the same. Some will be purely factual, whilst others may try and give you some advice or coaching. Both are valuable forms of feedback, but it’s important to distinguish between the two so you can respond accordingly.
Be open to feedback
The last tip, and arguably the most important one, is to be receptive to feedback in the first place. If you’re the kind of person that’s constantly seeking feedback from your peers, it’s much less likely you’ll be offended by the feedback you eventually receive. After all, you asked for it. When you do ask a colleague or boss for some feedback, however, make sure you’re as focused as possible. Be specific over both the topic you want feedback on, and even the kind of feedback you’re looking for. That way you’ll stand a better chance of getting the right kind and taking it on board.
Do you constantly crave feedback? Do you view it as a positive or negative thing? Your thoughts and comments below please...