Why does it hurt so bad? Why do I feel so sad? Thought I was … No, this not a love song. Nor is it about my love life, or the death or loss of a loved one. I am talking about FEEDBACK.
At some time or another, you and I have had to give feedback to someone, or might have been on the receiving end. And for the most of us, the experience hasn’t always been pleasant. In fact, on the work scene, it is not unlikely for both employees and supervisors to dread, that time of year when performance appraisals are to be conducted. And even in our personal lives, feedback – the nature and content of it, has led to, or contributed to, many a broken or damaged relationships, shattered trust and sent many to seek the counsel of elders, family, pastors and friends. Still, I contend, no matter how you look at it, feedback is a GIFT.
Here is the dilemma- feedback comes from everywhere and everyone, and it can be both good and bad. Clearly, positive feedback, the type usually regarded as good, doesn’t make us feel mad, bad or sad. It pleases us, makes us glow and run around “boasting” of our finer attributes to anyone who will listen. Usually, it is the negative variety a.ka. bad feedback, that causes us the tears, pain, anger, sends us ranting, catches us reacting defensively, or signals us to turn on our Silence buttons. When this happens, whether the feedback is given by loved one, friend(s), supervisor(s) or, co-worker(s), customer(s) or all of the above- doesn’t make it any easier accept.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I’ve experienced all the emotions I just described, and the kinds of feedback I mentioned. One my earliest experiences with negative feedback, came from my supervisor in my very first job. In my then role, I was responsible for coordinating over 20 training courses offered by the agency. The position I assumed, had been vacant for a whole year, and there was a “back-log” with issues deemed both urgent and important at the same time. As you could imagine, I worked hard to resolve these issues, while focusing on my key deliverables, learning the organization and my job. But, none of this bothered me, for I love a challenge, and tend to be very committed to whatever I do. Needless to say, by the time my probationary period ended, I was confident, settled and happy with my progress and performance. And with this positive energy and attitude, I sat down with my supervisor for my performance appraisal.
Our discussions about my performance and impact went very well. There were no surprises. That is, until she mentioned that, some of the participants for a course I coordinated, were dissatisfied with me. The issue they raised was related to my attitude, and their perception that, I did not seem particularly “friendly” to them. Truth be told, they were my least favorite group and they had the biggest issues on my “backlog” list. Speaking to them, and interacting with them, always required extra preparation-mental and otherwise. But I consider myself professional, and they were our/my customers, so truly I did my best. As my supervisor shared, I remember feeling hurt and angry, as I fought the tears welling up in my eyes . Suddenly, it was as if, nothing else had been said in the discussion, none of the kudos I had earlier heard/received mattered. And the kinder she was, the worst I felt.
Sometime after my tears subsided, and my thoughts of their ungratefulness faded, I resolved that I had to change my approach. After all, don’t we all want to be seen favorably, to the people who matter? So,I made a deliberate effort to “warm up” to the group, smile, say hi to them in the corridors, and be more patient in our interactions. It wasn’t before long that they too responded in kind, and I made friends with the group, as we continued to grapple with challenging issues. The way I figure it now is that, I was much younger then and less wiser I suspect.
Since then, I’ve had many roles and numerous opportunities to give and receive feedback.
Yet to date, the most enduring lessons have been:
- Feedback isn’t always positive or negative but it should always be honest.
- It is equally important to listen to what is said as well as what is not said.
- LISTEN and SILENT has the same letters- so listen carefully and ask questions to help you better understand the issue not argue.
- Instead of dismissing the feedback you don’t like, ask yourself- is any of it true?
- Be kind and gentle in sharing feedback-regardless of appearances, people are people first with emotions, insecurities and fears.
- Avoid making generalizations about people. Base your feedback on the specific situation you observed, the behavior and the impact it had on you, the job or others.
- Examine your motives in giving feedback – is it meant to develop or “tear down”?
- Say thank you- you don’t have to agree with what you’ve heard (but it is better to know how others feel about you and it gives you an opportunity to fix it).
In the end, I have learnt to value feedback. Feedback should make us glow and grow. Feedback is a Gift!
What has your experience been in giving or receiving feedback? Practice on me !
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As you pointed out, feedback is important for self evaluation. Even the negative feedback that you may get from people that you know have an axe to grind with you – in that it causes you to examine what they are griping about, and whether there are any merits to their grievances, and how you can work to change those perspectives, even though deep down you know what their real issues with you are.
Great insight Joe-thanks for sharing
I agree Joe that is good to examine motives when giving and receiving feedback.Why did I notice?,is a good question to ask yourself before you tell someone how you feel. Where are they coming from is a good one for you when you pause to introspect.
Lesson learnt…….I have gotten positive and negative feedback from my manager lately in my end of year evaluation, the negatives tore my heart mind soul and body to threads that to relieve myself from all those stress I had to call a dispute as I know I work very very hard, but what resulted from the make me realised working hard and not smart can give you a negative feedback…..so I welcome feedbacks and all negative feedback should be disputed
I’m so sorry to hear of that negative experience~ feeback can truly hurt~ especially how it is done. Fortunately,some organizations have good structures in place to help the affected party seek clarification,redress and continued dialogue which help to resolve problems.
“It wasn’t before long that they too responded in kind,” but feedback is greatest when the recipient uses it as a quick guage and decides if the issue described requires being kept , swept or adjusted.. Amm, amm as crutches in public speaking is definately to be “SWEPT”
And the sandwich rule of engagement is good advice for feedback givers…lol. Highlight the positives at the start , get to the critique without sugar coating it, and highlight any other positives along with encouraging introspection and more self evaluation.
You sound like an expert Nyron~ for true learning and change takes place when people feel safe and that the feedback is meant to develop not tear down. Then the introspection takes place and growth.
Yes Nyron- listening helps us to decide what should be “kept or swept” or presents us with an opportunity for adjustment.
Good offering Tameka. I especially like your observation about silence and listening. Our ability to receive feedback in a healthy way has a lot to do with that particular dynamic. Our unique challenge has to do with quieting that part of us that does not want to hear anything that isn’t dripping with praise…our egos.
Exceptional leaders must cultivate disciplined egos, as difficult or as contradictory as that may sound. Your honesty in reflecting your own discomforts goes a long way to doing exactly that. Ultimately what saves us from our own egocentrism, and therefore from the “hurt” you so ably describe, is the knowledge that in all our interactions we are acting justly. Inherent in every just action is the objectivity that silences the ego. The truth that a perspective of Justice speaks sets us free… Free to act… Free to listen… Free to receive “feedback”.
Thank you so much for your insight Roy-I appreciate it.You are particularly right about how we wrestle with our egos-and how we must cultivate disciplined egos to truly grow and develop. I struggled alot at first but learnt the value of listening.
Excellent post. In Toastmasters we speak about effective evaluation or feedback. The key point about an evaluation or feedback is not erode a person’s self-confidence or self-esteem. Effective evaluation or feedback is to help the recipient grow and develop. One approach that we use in Toastmasters in to identify the performer’s strong points, then we identified what can the performer improve on and in doing recommend specific strategies or actions that can lead to improvement and then end the evaluation or feedback on something that you really, really, really like. We call this the sandwich approach. Evaluations or feedback leaves an individual defeated is not effective evaluation…it can lead to destruction, erosion of self-confidence and self-esteem…that kind of evaluation feedback is detrimental to a person’s.
I love that approach Mark~ thanks for sharing. I’ve been visiting a few Toastmasters Clubs in my area and observed as much.Hoping to join one soon,