The art of receiving feedback: The feedback conversation
You will get a lot more out of your feedback conversations if you skill-fully manage each part
Align the agenda with your giver; some questions that will help you:
- What is the purpose of the conversation?
- What kind of feedback would you like? What kind is your giver trying to give?
- Is the feedback negotiable or final, a friendly suggestion or a command?
Listening may be the most challenging skill when receiving feedback, but it certainly has the greatest benefits. We all have an “internal voice”, our thoughts and feelings about the topic, and when we are triggered, that “internal voice” turns from mere assistant into an armed bodyguard — and then, we stop listening.
Your internal voice gets loud because it wants your attention, and if you give it attention, it quiets down! Tune in to what it’s saying, and work to understand it. Once you identify your patterns, have a conversation with yourself! Here, there are some common internal voice patterns, with ideas about what you’re listening for and what questions you might ask — surprisingly, interrupting periodically can be a sign that you are listening well and clarifying as you go can be helpful to both of you.
Always try to remain curious about what the giver says and why you see things differently!
Asserting is a mix of sharing, advocating, and expressing — in essence, talking. Feedback is like a puzzle in which both participants have some of the pieces, and when you don’t assert, you are withholding your pieces.
You can assert anything that’s important to you, not trying to replace their truth with your truth, but adding what’s “left out” instead. Some assertion mistakes may be:
- Truth trigger → Pitfall: “That advice is wrong.” → Better: “I disagree with that advice.
- Relationship trigger → Pitfall: “You’re a self-centered jerk.” → Better: “I’m feeling under-appreciated, so it’s hard for me to focus on your feedback. I think we need to discuss how I’m feeling, as well as the feedback itself.” (avoiding switch-tracking, giving each topic its own track”)
- Identity trigger → Pitfall: “It’s true. I’m hopeless.” → Better: “I’m surprised by all this and it’s a lot to take in. I want to take some time to think about it and digest what you’ve said. Let’s come back to it tomorrow.”
Set boundaries if needed
Being able to establish limits is crucial to your well-being and the health of your -relationships. Some situations when you may consider establishing limits: they attack your character and not just your behavior, the feedback is unrelenting, you do change but there is always one more demand, you are the only one that has to change, they took the relationship hostage, they are making threats to induce fear, etc.
We can consider three kinds of boundaries:
- Thanks and No — I’m happy to hear your coaching . . . and I may not take it.
- Not Now, Not About That — I need time or space, or this is too sensitive a subject right now.
- No Feedback — Our relationship rides on your ability to keep your judgments to yourself.
Choosing to disregard feedback may have consequences, so if you’re unsure if the coaching is optional or mandatory, discuss it explicitly. If you decide not to take the coaching, don’t assume the giver knows why: be transparent, and explain your reasons carefully and firmly. When turning down feedback, use “and” to be appreciative, and avoid “but”, as it suggest contradiction (I.E: if you say “I like seeing you, BUT you need to stop criticising every single thing”, then, it sounds as you don’t actually like seeing him/her, right?)
When setting boundaries, you should be specific about the request, the time frame and have their assent.
Finally, if you’re not changing, work to mitigate the impact on others: Ask about the impact, coach them to deal with the unchanged you and problem solve together.
At the end of a feedback conversation, it helps to close with a commitment, and you should both know where things stand. Remember: Feedback conversations are rarely one-shot deals. They are usually a series of conversations over time, and as such, signposting where you stand, what you’ve accomplished, and what you’ll try next helps you travel the road together. If we’re not explicit, we often end up disappointed by the lack of progress, or confused about the other person’s lofty expectations.