Um….. No. You are wrong
At one time or another we all get feedback that we just don’t agree with. It could be from a boss, a colleague, a friend, or a family member. Regardless of whether or not we agree, how we respond sets the stage for the future of our relationships and how we grow and share our value. Most people indicate that giving feedback is one of things they are most uncomfortable with and most often avoid. So it is no wonder that frequently feedback is delivered clumsily and with the nugget of truth masked or buried. Accepting that it may be clumsy or off base is the first step to finding the gift within the feedback.
Below are some tips on how you can discern the kernel of truth in the feedback and use it to improve relationships, enhance your value, and move past barriers that hold you back.
But first let’s take a look at how you receive feedback you don’t agree with.
Imagine (or maybe you don’t have to imagine) that your boss just gave you some feedback that you disagree with. How do you react?
Clam. You don’t agree but it is too risky to say anything. Or as your parents taught you, the boss is always right so suck it up. But inside you feel crappy and frustrated. You clam up, raging inside and then someone asks you a casual question or cuts your off in traffic and BAM! Your anger comes flying out. Ooops! Now you are thatperson. Darn it!
Defense Attorney. While your boss is talking, instead of listening, you are preparing your defense. Preparing to refute every statement with evidence of how they are WRONG! Or worse, interrupting along the way with OBJECTIONS! The boss leaves frustrated and thinking “that was pointless”.
Polluter. Do you nod and agree to do better, but can’t wait to get to your desk and text your co-worker, “Meet me in the restroom. You aren’t going to believe this!” Or perhaps you proceed to spend hours venting to co-workers/friends/family about how misunderstood you are, what a jerk the boss is, and how the situation at work is impossible. This venting pollutes everyone else’s positive energy and soon you notice people are avoiding you at the lunch table. Finally someone says, “If you are so unhappy, why don’t you leave?” Or maybe even, “You can’t seem to find any job where you are happy”. RED FLAG!
Finger Pointer. But it isn’t your fault! The instructions weren’t clear. Your co-worker didn’t tell you the meeting time changed. Your phone wasn’t working. The new puppy that keeps you awake all night. Or Mercury is in retrograde again! BUT IT SURE AS HECK ISN’T YOU! Why is everyone against me?
Sad Face. You burst into tears, the boss apologizes and hands you tissues. You come out of the office red-faced and eyes swollen, and then have to go for a walk or leave for the day. Everyone tiptoes around you while you sulk, or they try to cajole you with muffins. Despondently you wave people off whispering, “I’m fine”, while barely participating in office activities. You even post some cryptic updates on Facebook like “My words for the day are Unappreciated, Misunderstood and Retirement!”
Any of these sound familiar? Or maybe a combination of several of them? The truth of the matter is that most of these are learned responses from childhood. But guess what? We are big boys and girls now. The scenarios listed above are reactions, not responses. And all of them diminish our value as employees, prevent creating meaningful connections, and sabotage feeling pride and joy in the workplace.
Regardless of how true it feels, feedback is always a gift so be thankful! It provides you with insight into what the other person values and expects. That insight into the other person can actually make your job and relationship easier if you simply hear it without reacting. At other times feedback points to one of our blind spots that although tough to hear, once recognized can remove a roadblock to forward movement!
The ability to hear the feedback and then find ways to incorporate it is called responding. When you respond to feedback versus react to it, you receive the gift.
When you begin to feel any of the above reactionary behaviors surface follow these simple steps:
1. Breathe Flooding your system with oxygen calms down the fight or flight triggers and allows you to hold space for the person giving the feedback. Maintain a smooth, rhythmic breathing pattern instead of holding your breath.
2. Feel gratitude for the feedback Tricky I know, but when you feel gratitude your brain gets flooded with dopamine (feel good neurotransmitters) and you can relax. I recommend actually expressing the gratitude out loud, “Before we begin I just want to say thank you for talking with me directly” or “Thank you for sharing this with me”.
3. Practice Active Listening Establish soft eye contact (not piercing eye contact). Check in with your muscles. Is your jaw soft, are your facial muscles relaxed, are your hands open and resting gently? Are you sitting back in your chair?
4. Jot it down. If you didn’t bring a pencil and paper to the meeting or if the feedback occurs spontaneously, ask if you can grab something to take a few notes with. This not only helps the person giving the feedback to feel heard, but it also creates a little bit of space for both of you (they are likely anxious and a little triggered themselves) to calm down. It will also help you to recall what was said so you can actually implement it or respond to it when you aren’t “in the heat of the moment”.
Most people are uncomfortable and untrained to give feedback effectively. Providing feedback is the number one thing that supervisors say they avoid or that is the part of their job they like least. Knowing this can help all of us be more compassionate and aware that what we receive may be delivered clumsily, and the information may be unclear or off base. But remember, there is a kernel of truth in there. Your job is to find it.
Here are some common gifts in feedback:
Understand what your boss values What is the speaker focusing on in the feedback? By listening for that, you can understand what is most important to him or her. Is it attention to details? Is it timeliness? Does multitasking in meetings make them nuts? Does a cluttered workspace cause them anxiety? Maybe you are putting your time and energy into things that aren’t aligned with their focus and this conversation gives you the opportunity to loosen up a little in some areas and tighten up in others. And shine in the places that they value most!
Improve your value There is nothing a boss likes less than having to give feedback and nothing they like more than seeing an employee incorporate the feedback and make positive change. Write down the area of improvement. Come back to them in a week or two to ask clarifying questions. Your value increases dramatically as improvement is demonstrated.
Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear Just like the mirrors on your car, we all have blind spots in areas in which we can improve. Be sure to double check and see if the feedback you disagree with is actually illuminating a blind spot. You can do this by asking yourself “Have I heard this before?” or asking a trusted colleague or mentor if they have perspective on this for you.
If you begin to get the sense that it could be a blind spot for you, this is great fodder for a coaching session.
Create connection Connection reduces fear. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with a supervisor who dreads giving feedback. They fear it will cause drama, hurt the employee’s feelings, or incite a blow up. Once I coach the supervisor on how to give clear, non-emotional feedback, and they practice delivering it a few times, they begin to see positive results. Most of the time employees handle it well, actually make changes to become valued team members. When a supervisor, or employee, is empowered to give and receive feedback in a positive manner, then building trust and creating connection become easier. Thus forming a strong, productive feedback loop helps everyone grow and thrive.
Remember, feedback is a gift. Whether you react or respond is your choice. Listen, say thank you, and find the kernel of truth!
Are you struggling with receiving feedback anywhere in your life? From family, work, friends or community? Sign up for a free discovery session with Beth to see if perhaps it is actually a blind spot and become empowered to move forward!