I know that feedback is good for me BUT…. Have we not heard that statement or even made that statement ourselves? We know that we need to grow and improve. We know that we can’t achieve that without feedback. Hence the question, what causes the “BUT” to appear in our sentence or speech. What causes the fear or anxiety that comes with giving or receiving feedback? Which aspect of feedback is more frightening, giving or receiving feedback?
For someone who is uncomfortable with setting expectations, giving feedback can be challenging. It is challenging because in order to give feedback, there must be an expectation of what it should or could be. There must be an aim or desired outcome from the feedback. The outcome must always be to help the person improve and NOT to just criticise or pull them down. One of the reason for not being able to set expectations is simply because you don’t know or have an expectation of what improvement would look like. When that happens it’s difficult to give good constructive feedback. Therein lies one of the keys of giving feedback.
For someone who struggles in themselves whether from self-doubt, fear or pride will have great difficulties in receiving feedback. Receiving feedback will naturally place us in a super defensive position which will result in NOT receiving or listening to anything that is being said. The outcome there is a slow process towards growth and resentment.
There needs to be a good balance of humility and self-confidence with clear expectations and outcomes in order to be able to give and receive feedback. Humility to receive, digest and decide on an action plan based on the feedback. Self-confidence to know that the feedback will not “destroy” your future ability to perform and to be able to put the action plan in the appropriate perspective and self-awareness.
What can we do to be a little bit more comfortable with feedback? The simple answer is to learn and practice. Learn some techniques in giving and receiving feedback and then putting it into practice. Learning the tools will give you a framework and confidence to get started. Practice will help you to make it a natural part of your skills repertoire.
A quick snap shot of giving feedback will consist of 4 key areas:
- Be specific: Be specific with the observed behaviour or action that you would like to give feedback on. For example, “I have noticed that you have been late for the last 2 meetings.”
- Outline the significance of that behaviour as it relates to you: Following on from the above example, “I feel that you could be missing out the discussions as I value your input.”
- Seek to understand the person’s viewpoint: For example, ” What is your take on this? “
- Suggestion a solution or alternative: For example, “I would like to suggest that …..”
As a start it will probably feel very unnatural but once you are comfortable with it, it is a very quick process which should take no more than 2-3 minutes. After all, no one wants to hear an hour of feedback. I will conducting a workshop around Feedback in October and you can find out more here.
Just as important as being able to give feedback is receiving feedback. Receiving feedback is a skill that can be developed as well. There is no benefit for you to just be able to give feedback as the growth and benefit is for the person that you are giving feedback to. The benefit for you is in receiving feedback from others.
The most important rule to receiving feedback lies in Active Listening. Active listening is one of the hardest skills to learn as it requires total focus on your mind to just listen. Listen and NOT listen with the aim to respond with your perspective or preparing a brilliant comeback in your mind. Listen without any judgements, reflections and retaliation. Once you have heard the feedback, clarify any areas that may be vague or that you would like to seek further information with the goal of listening for areas of improvement. I dare say that none of us have reached perfection yet and therefore there is always room for improvement. With active listening, even if the person is not very good at giving feedback, you can still get the maximum benefit of the feedback.
Don’t avoid feedback out of fear or awkwardness. Learn more about it. There are various books, articles and training programme that you can attend. Equipping yourself will help to remove the fear and with practice will give you to confidence and comfort level to give and receive feedback.