Getting Feedback Heard
How many of you, when someone says, “Can I give you some feedback?” think, “Yay! Feedback! Can’t wait!” Most of us tend to translate that sentence in our heads to say, “Let me tell you how you screwed up.” And that doesn’t typically illicit feelings of joy and happiness.
And now, with the advent of social media, feedback is rampant! We can all let our feedback fly willy-nilly. It’s very freeing. We see something that bugs us and we can, in a few brisk keystrokes, get it off our chest. Like an exorcism of sorts.
The problem is, in most cases, we don’t know the human being on the receiving end well enough to gauge how our feedback is going to land.
Maybe the person is having a bad day. Maybe the person is having a string of bad days. Maybe the cheery persona that the person is showing the world doesn’t reflect what’s really going on inside. Maybe the person is confident. Maybe the person is not. Maybe the person will take our feedback as a single data point and learn something. Maybe the person will take it as an indictment of their talent and value. Maybe. The point is, we don’t know.
Human beings are funny creatures. When we experience someone making us wrong, our knee-jerk response is, “Talk to the hand!” We get mad, we pull back, we hide, we stop, we take our ball and play elsewhere, or we retaliate (“Oh yeah! Well YOU….!”) We rarely get curious and try to understand.
But if we’re honest, what’s really to understand? Most of us aren’t trying to provide a learning opportunity or a thoughtful response when we’re dishing out our feedback. Typically, we’re just reacting. It’s not meant to be hurtful, it’s meant to be “right”. Because we like to be right. It feels really good. (Truth time: In the past I’ve actually recorded my kid and my husband telling me I’m right so I can replay it for myself – and for them – just as a reminder. It’s not pretty.)
Yes, we have the right to be right and share how right we are, but is it right?
One of the things I help participants do in OnStage Leadership is find the most constructive tactics to deal with the situations in their lives. To shift from simply reacting to the world around them, to taking mindful action. It’s easier said than done. I ask them to imagine a specific situation as if it had already taken place, and to ask themselves two questions. Following the situation…
1. How do you want the other person/people involved to FEEL? How do you want them to feel about you? How do you want them to feel about themselves? How do you want them to feel about the organization? How do you want them to feel about their future? How do you want them to FEEL? For real?
2. And what do you want them to DO? Do you want them to keep trying? Do you want them to find the information they need to be better? Do you want them to find another way? What do you want them to DO?
When we can frame our words to take these two things into consideration, it changes everything.
Yesterday I wrote about a friend of mine who had received a snarky comment on her blog about a grammatical error she had made. I know my friend well enough to know that she puts her whole heart into what she does and wants to be her very best. I also know that for her to put herself out there for the world to see takes a lot of vulnerability and courage. Grammar-guy likely wasn’t thinking about any of those things. He probably wasn’t trying to be mean, it just bugged him and he reacted. But his comment hurt. And it didn’t have to.
We are so powerful. The words we use and how we use them can elevate people to bring their best or to stop them in their tracks. If we want our feedback to be heard, then we have to give it with that sense of responsibility.
For if we’re not heard, we’re really just talking to ourselves. And what’s the point in that?
©OnStage Leadership, 2013
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