As a kid I was perpetually sick and I had bad eating habits so my mom insisted that I eat eggs every morning, something that I hated. At that time I was too young to understand why that was good for me and probably hated my mom for awhile to put me through something I was uncomfortable with. Well good feedback is very much like that, it’s painful and most of the times we don’t want it. Several studies show that not only people are willing to completely ignore proof that their beliefs are wrong but also the fact that they have a tendency to believe things even more when their beliefs are challenged. If you asked me in my twenties what my thoughts were on feedback, my response would be ‘I know better’. I was completely shut when it came to anything that even came close to pointing out hard truths about my personality. But over the years I realized that it would be a folly to continue ignoring things if I wanted the important break throughs in my life. So I decided to listen and devise a checklist for myself to deal with this better. Do I follow through a 100%? Heck no! And sometimes it’s a real struggle. But I am more open than I have ever been before to receiving feedback and I am convinced that it’s the only way to personal growth.
So let’s start by asking some fundamental questions– Is all feedback we receive good? How do we know when it’s right for us? And who should we take it from? Here are some pointers I have come up for myself.
It’s not us against the world: If one person has some specific feedback for us, it may be an opinion but if several people have the same feedback then that opinion is more or less true. And no, it’s not a conspiracy of people ganging up against us, unless we are a really important person and it’s something politically driven. Matter fact it takes a lot of courage for people to be candid and direct with people they care for.
It’s important whom we take feedback from: Not all feedback is good and most of times it’s a factor of who it comes from. We can’t take feedback on finances from someone who is reeling in debts, or on how to quit smoking from a chain smoker, or marriage counseling from singles. There is a need to use a bit of common sense here. If they haven’t made it work for themselves then they can’t make it work for us as well. It’s important to indentify credible people for each aspect of our lives from whom we wish to take feedback from.
Are we surrounded by people who constantly say yes to us? Many times we play games that we can only win, by asking for opinions from people who no matter what will give us a favorable reply. That’s called asking for affirmation and not asking for feedback. Affirmation will make us comfortable if that’s what we want, but good feedback will give us a chance to better ourselves. Let’s seek friends who aren’t afraid to tell us things as they are, friends who are more interested in our personal growth then our comfort, those who would risk their friendship to tell us the truth.
The time and way of giving feedback was bad: Maybe, but there are very limited options here, a bad pizza slice is not going to taste significantly better with more chili sauce on it. The truth will hurt no matter how well and when it has been put across to us.
We are made this way and nothing can change that: Well this is definitely not true, change is possible and change is what drives the world, bad habits can be broken with discipline and effort. We ‘can’t change’ is lousy excuse for someone who is just not committed to personal growth.
I guess this realization comes from experience and time but if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t be as stiff about feedback. So if you are young and reading this post then I would like to challenge you to expand your heart and your thinking and be more receptive to guidance from people who care and look out for you. They may see some things that you can’t see or you are blind to, and for that you must give them credit.