from Hamburg, Germany
Welcome to the 3 part of this feedback article series!
I hope you have tried giving feedback. Today we will be finishing this story of feedback by talking about receiving it.
Receiving feedback is easier if your mindset is in the right place. Most of us like hearing praise and dislike hearing criticism, but the later one usually can teach us more about ourselves. For this reason, I will be focusing on how to receive critical or constructive feedback properly.
It is all about not being defensive, even if you really, really want to be and it feels like a natural response. We are all human being with emotions, and we all react to those emotions. Learning how to master those emotions in order not to (re)act on them, is something one might have to spend years on. But there is one simple technique I suggest you to try. When you feel emotions coming or you have already acted on them, just tell to yourself what emotion it is, using your inner voice. That technique is called “labeling emotions” (give it a small google search!). For us it is important to know that it helps to make emotions less powerful and easier to control. Here is how it works: If you, for example, feel anger, just say to yourself “I feel angry”. Similar, if you feel pressured, tell yourself “I feel under pressure”. The reason we want to have a less emotional reaction to feedback, is that we can process the information we receive better and be more open to communication. In the end, we also want to be able to decide if the feedback we just received is something we want to consider implementing, and to what extent.
Let us assume that we are able to deal with our emotions. And let us also assume that we know how to give feedback. There is a high chance that the initial information given to us will be incomplete. Because of that, the next step is to seek to understand. If we would insist on being understood, it would most likely be perceived as trying to justify ourselves or being defensive. We do not want the person giving us feedback to think that, so in order to maintain an open communication, we need to ask questions. My usual phrase is something like: “Thank you for your feedback, but I do not understand XYZ. Could you please let me know more about it”. The concept is the same as for giving feedback and asking questions.
When I believe I have all the information I need, I try to summarize what was communicated to me as a next step. This is also known as closing the feedback loop. That way the person giving the feedback knows what I understood, and that I am appreciating that they invested time and energy and had the courage to give feedback at all. A common response I use looks like this: “If I have understood you correctly, and please correct me if I am wrong, you have said that…”. This gives the person the opportunity to add any details, they think are important, and I might have missed.
As the last step, I manage the expectation of a person who just gave me feedback. If I believe it is something I will act upon, I will say so. Likewise, if I believe it is something I will consider implementing, I will communicate that as well. I rarely completely dismiss the feedback at the moment it is given to me, but if I do, I communicate that I am still thankful for the feedback, disagree with it and suggest that we agree to disagree. Managing expectations is important because people often automatically assume that their feedback will be acted upon. This is something I want to keep as an option, not something required . That way, feedback is not an order, but an advice. It is a gift.
No matter the outcome, I am always expressing my gratitude, because I want more feedback in the future, as I might act upon that. Think of it as an invite to a party. After you turn one down, you do not want to be the person that never gets invited again. You were busy that night, but you probably want people to invite you to parties in the future. The same is true for feedback. You do not want other people to believe that you are not interested in it all, just because you are not acting upon this one piece of feedback today. And of course you might act on the feedback you receive tomorrow.
Now that you have read these articles, and with some practice, you should be able to deal with feedback much more effectively. As usual, with great power, comes great responsibility. There are not many people who know the concepts presented in this article, therefore it is up to you, to guide them to either give feedback to you, or to receive it from you. That means to be kind to them, when they skip the “seeking to understand” step, or the “communicating their need” step, and jump straight to making requests. Instead of feeling defensive or pushed, something that selfish feedback can do to you, ask them about their need, and give them some context. This way you provide them with understanding and you also turn a selfish and conflicting feedback into a positive experience. You might even teach the other person something that forms the outside looks like magic. And we are here to do magic, are we not?
Let me know what you think about this in the comments and what your experiences are. Also, let me know if you have tried this or some other way of giving feedback and how it worked for you. What I presented to you is something that has been working for me and I would like to expand it with what has been working for you!
This is the end of this group of feedback articles but there will be many more to read!