feedback noun

Feed · back | \ ˈfēd-ˌbak\
Definition of feedback
1a: the transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process to the original or controlling source

I am currently reading Brené Brown‘s latest book, Dare to Lead, for the second time, and I am in the section where she is talking about feedback and the two sides of it…giving and receiving.

This got me thinking about myself and where I am in regards to how I give and receive both positive and negative feedback.

What I know is true for me, and I believe is true for most of us, is that positive feedback is easier all the way around. There are a couple of things thought that I think we should watch out for when it comes to positive feedback.

First, I think sometimes we just don’t take the time to give it. We assume people know they are doing a good job and that we appreciate them.  I admit I am guilty of this at times. If you’re like me in this situation, I encourage you to make a point to express your gratitude and appreciation to others. Every time I do this, I know both parties involved walk away feeling better then we had the moment before. It feels awesome to be either on the receiving or giving end of positive feedback.

The other struggle I see with positive feedback, however, happens on the receiving side. So many of us are uncomfortable being praised so we downplay it or brush it aside. Again, I admit I struggle with this and over the past several years have been practicing saying thank you and receiving positive feedback with gratitude and grace.

Negative feedback is another story.…both the receiving and the giving make me extremely uncomfortable!  So, this is what I want to focus on today.

One of the things I love about Brené Brown’s work is that she looks for ways to make it teachable. In one of her earlier books, Daring Greatly, she developed a 10 step feedback readiness checklist.  The checklist looks like this…

I know I’m ready to give feedback when:

  1. I’m ready to sit next to you rather than across from you.
  2. I’m willing to put the problem in front of us rather than between us (or sliding it toward you).
  3. I’m ready to listen, ask questions, and accept that I may not fully understand the issues.
  4. I’m ready to acknowledge what you do well instead of just picking apart your mistakes.
  5. I recognize your strengths and how you can use them to address your challenges.
  6. I can hold you accountable without shaming or blaming.
  7. I’m open to owning my part.
  8. I can genuinely thank someone for their efforts rather than just criticizing them for their failings.
  9. I can talk about how resolving these challenges will lead to growth and opportunity.
  10. I can model the vulnerability and openness that I expect to see from you.

Don’t you just love this!  It’s a tool you can sit down with and run through prior to what might feel like a difficult conversation.  I’ve been working with this since I first came across it in 2012 and it has been a game changer.

In daring greatly, it was this sentence that stood out to me: “We have to be able to take feedback – regardless of how it’s delivered – and apply it productively. We have to do this for a simple reason: mastery requires feedback. I don’t care what we’re trying to master – and whether we are trying to develop greatness or proficiency – it always requires feedback.“

I want you to pause for a moment and think about a time you received hard to hear feedback… How was it delivered?… how did you receive it?

I know for me before I began my homework on self-discovery and self-reflection, my default tendency was to become defensive and to use blame as a form of offloading. I would feel the discomfort of the situation and instead of being able to sit in the discomfort and to really listen to the feedback, I would immediately start explaining why I had acted in the manner I had. I would also look for reasons to justify my behavior.  When I looked at these reasons closely I was able to see my behavior as what it was… blaming someone else.  When I saw this video I immediately saw myself in it…Take a moment to look at this video and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. This could be me talking…

This is not who I want to be! I want to be someone who can receive feedback, regardless of how it delivered, with open-mindedness. So, the big question is how do we do this?

For me, it boils down to how I am feeling about my own self-worth. When I am feeling enough, I am able to listen without my ego getting in the way.  I want to be better every day, and feedback is a way to make that happen. When my self worth is intact I am able to take the information in without labeling it as good or bad and mindfully decide which pieces of the feedback are going to help me become a better version of me. Some days I’m better at this than others.

Here is what Brené says in Dare to Lead about receiving feedback…

“ Receiving feedback is tricky for several reasons. One, we might be receiving feedback from someone who lacks delivery skills. Two, we might be at the hands of a skilled person, but we don’t know their intentions. Three, unlike when we’re giving feedback and we schedule it and know precisely what we’re going to say or do, when we’re receiving feedback, we can sometimes be taken off guard. Someone calls us into their office, or we pick up the phone and it’s a client, and they say, “Hey, we’re looking at the pitch you all submitted. We think it sucks, and it’s so far off brief, and we can’t believe you think we’re going to spend this much money with you.” And that’s feedback. Does it feel productive? Is it easy to stay open and receptive to it? Not so much after we hear the word sucks.”

Navigating the uncertain waters of feedback is definitely challenging. Here are a couple of strategies to help you…

First, stay aligned with your values and try creating a mantra that can help you in the moment.  For example,  I value the act of being curious.  I think this stems from my strength of learner (according to Gallup’s Strengths Finder Assessment). So when I am on the receiving end of giving feedback, I am often silently repeating to myself… stay curious, stay curious, stay curious over and over as a way to stay connected to my values.  Or when I am on the giving end of negative feedback, I practice reminding myself that there will always be things on the other side of the situation that I need to know and staying open and curious is a good way to gather that information.

Second, practice staying present.  Take the time to learn what your default tendency is when it comes to offloading discomfort and then practice not implementing that strategy.  Some typical strategies are anger, blame, pretending we aren’t uncomfortable, and numbing to name a few.

Do you know what your go-to strategy is?

The bottom line is that negative feedback is a challenge for most of us, but if we want to live a life that allows for expansion and growth, we have to practice both giving and receiving it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  What have you learned about feedback?  Please share it with me in the comment section.


Today’s author: Laura Hall, CPC, CDWF: As a certified professional coach since 2009, Laura Hall, Certified Daring Way™ Facilitator has been helping people just like you make changes in both their personal and professional lives.  Laura can be reached via email at [email protected] or feel free to visit her website