I have been pondering over what “feedback” does to us, for quite a while now. The thought regarding feedback – both seeking and giving – came to me in one of the training discussions, where we were exploring the concept of ‘learning through the lifespan of adulthood.’ One of my peers spoke about her feelings on feedback, as she said, ‘she stopped seeking feedback from her parents, since it didn’t add value to her growth!’ What she was truly referring to was the societal perception, provided to another person, so that one conforms to the situation. Now, this could be good or bad, however, let me ask you the following questions:
How many times have you asked your friends? – Am I looking fat? Is my make-up OK? Am I dressed well for this meeting? Do I need to carry the presentation with me? – Of course these are simple questions for which we need simple responses and that is feedback provided to us, when we need it. When we seek feedback in the most subtle forms everyday, it is to understand where and how we can modify ourselves for the better (and sometimes only to get flurry of compliments, no one of course, seeks feedback for criticisms)!
Going back to my peer’s example, she sought feedback to ensure she can raise her self-esteem. It was a revelation for me when I read her statement. I realized that feedback is perceptions of value, we receive from others, it is a strong determinant of our personal self-esteem. It is a way in which we realize our self worth and effort. When there is so much attached to feedback, why aren’t we learning the art of effective feedback?
The term feedback itself is a positive, which aims for improvement. However, it is the way, in which we give and receive feedback that makes all the difference. While there are several pros to feedback, there are plenty of cons as well.
Because, feedback is an art, one can learn it, to transform situations favorably! It is one of the best art forms readily available to us in the game of persuasion and influencing.
So, where are we going wrong? Where most of us go wrong, is in the understanding of the art of giving and receiving feedback. Here’s how you can master the art, without compromising on your self-esteem and worth:
- Be in the middle of praise and criticisms: While praise always makes us feel good and criticisms might not, realize that they both need the same treatment from you (as a receiver and a giver). Listen from one ear and get it out from another if you are in a position of receiving. Or when in a position of giving, realize that effective feedback is an amalgamation of praise and criticism. Too much of praise and too much of criticism can easily demotivate and lower one’s self-esteem.
- Be genuine and constructive with your tone: Whether it is feedback on paper/in writing or verbally, ensure you are genuine about about what you want to seek, receive or provide. If someone might not be genuine or constructive then you always have the option of moving forward and forgetting about it! But when you are in a position to influence a change in behavior, whether at work or in your personal life then ensure you are genuine and constructive.
- Positives first and then negatives: Constructive feedback has to have positive and negative suggestions. Realize it is not praise or criticism, rather, you are mentioning the positive outcome and negative outcome in the feedback. For instance if your friend is in need for some life based motivation, let her know of all the positive things she is attracting in her life and how. Similarly help her reflect on her negatives, which might be putting her down in the dumps! No feedback can ever be complete without positive outcomes to be mentioned first and then any negative comments. Again, understand that “your tone is the main ingredient in influencing change of behavior.” There is a fine balance to be maintained. Even at work, don’t ignore the good work someone might have put in along with the negatives that you might see.
- Make it the feedback confidential: A lot of times feedback is sought and provided in public, which can lead to mental resignations (at work or in friendships or relationships as well). If feedback needs to be sought or provided it should be done privately. Not only is it much more constructive but also provides a better judgement of the situation.
- Choose your words wisely: Words can spark enthusiasm, kill curiosity, or also create a self-undermining belief. So if you are seeking or providing feedback to yourself, or others, choose your words wisely! Stop the negative overkill or excessive positive reinforcement, know when situations might not result in the desired outcomes.
Correct feedback is integral to our growth and development, whether we seek it or provide it, at work or at home, it is crucial for personal improvement and performance improvement. Since we cannot change the person on the other end of the spectrum, the change begins from within. When we know how we can provide and seek feedback, life can be much easier!
This article is labor of love, with high amount of research and development effort put into it. If you benefited from it, then I would really appreciate if you shared with those you feel might benefit from it!
I’m putting together a few strategies to cope with non-constructive feedback and turning it into constructive feedback, in my free newsletter. Sign up for it here. If you want to start a discussion on social media then chat up on Twitter or Facebook!