Feed on Feedback

Gauri Chhabra

If there is one singular aspect that the modern corporate world lives and feeds on- it is feedback. Day in and day out, we keep hearing-“I will share my feedback with you after I go through your presentation”. “My feedback is- your presentation sucks. Love it or hate it- feedback is here to stay. It can come in any form- a tough performance review – an offhanded comment from your boss or even a co-worker’s subtly raised eyebrow during a meeting.Whether it’s given directly or merely implied, feedback stings…
But it doesn’t have to-if you know how to transform that criticism into an opportunity to listen and learn. Let’s see how:
Understanding feedback
There’s a struggle that precedes the struggle to accept or take feedback and that’s the struggle to understand the feedback.   Too often, we get vague feedback “you’re not confident enough”, “you’re not a team player,” “you’re not cordial” that might mean something to the person giving it, but has no clear meaning to the person receiving it.   “Not cordial” could mean a million different things, even conflicting things.   So step one is understanding the feedback: “When you say I’m not cordial enough, what does that mean?   What’s an example, and what I would I do differently?”
Once we understand the feedback, we may decide not to “accept” it, meaning, it doesn’t resonate with us, we don’t think it applies, or maybe we just think it is just wrong.   We might think it’s wrong because it actually is wrong even though it is coming from the boss.  And we should reject feedback that’s wrong or inapplicable to us.  But often, it’s more nuanced than that.  Maybe part of the feedback is right, or maybe we think it’s wrong because it sits directly in a blind spot of ours.   We really are “defensive,” but we may be totally unaware of that.   So, once we understand the feedback, the next step is to figure out which aspects of it might actually be useful to us.
Receiving feedback:
The effectiveness of feedback often lies not in how it’s given, but in how it’s received.If we find a way to somehow disqualify feedback because we don’t agree with it, the challenge of that is that we don’t learn, don’t grow and don’t improve.
Here are ways in which we can receive feedback- prevent it from sending us into a shame spiral-and how to even use it to our advantage in the workplace. Just follow these simple steps:
Welcome feedback
I know most feedback is scary,at least a part of it is.Sometimes feedback is bad news, so it’s reasonable to get upset. But feedback can also challenge your sense of who you are. Even if you want feedback-because it helps you grow and get better-you might also want people to like you just the way youare. You want to feel good about the way things are now, so you get caught in this conundrum of wanting two opposite things at once.Perhaps that’s why even a minor critique can feel like the end of the world. We often exaggerate what we hear-and then react to what we’re imagining we’re hearing.
If someone tells you that your presentation didn’t go well, it’s as if we Google “everything that’s wrong with me” and get a million hits. You think, “I’m a disaster. I can’t do anything right.”Suddenly, this piece of feedback that was about one particular thing causes us to spiral downward, which can be devastating.
Do not view feedback as something it is an arrow shot at you, but as an opportunity to learn new things and improve yourself. Once you change your perspective it would not sting too much.
Face feedback
There are times when even we you ask for feedback, you do not have the courage to face it. You may distort it or reject it. When the feedback either doesn’t make sense to us or feels wrong or out of date, so we are likely to reject it. The challenge is that we judge the feedback way too quickly, without really understanding what the other person means by it. Or, there are times when feedback challenges the way you see yourself. You deny the feedback because it’s too painful, or you shut down in some way. Still at some other times, it arrives in the context of some sort of relationship, and if we have issues with the person giving the feedback, that’s going to show up in how we respond to it.So let’s say I backfilled you when you were on maternity leave, and when you come back, you complain about the way I treated one of your clients. My reaction might be, “That’s the thanks I get for helping you?” But the fact that I was helping you and the way I treated your client are not actually related topics. The relationship issues end up getting in the way of the feedback itself.
So, instead of denying or rejecting feedback just it does not gel with your personality or it is coming from a person you do not feel comfortable with- yet the fact remains that feedback is actually a feedback. So, face it, introspect whether it really carries weight,free yourself from biases and think of how to improve yourself on that particular personality trait or concern.
So how should you respond when you feel slighted, discouraged or confused by feedback?
Understand feedback
On hearing feedback you don’t agree with, it’s not about pretending that you agree with it, nor is it about responding that the feedback is wrong. It’s about saying, “Here’s what I’m confused about. Help me understand.For instance, if your boss said your presentation didn’t have enough energy-but you thought it did-you might say, “Tell me more about what you mean by that.” Maybe when she says the word “energy,” she means something totally different than what you think she means by it, like you weren’t looking at individual people enough.
If, once you clarify what the feedback means, and you still disagree, you can say something like, “I appreciate what you’re saying, but we might have different preferences.”
Pick the lowest hanging fruit
When someone gives you feedback, he might tell you multiple things. Be specific in picking the ones that you might want to work on first.  While asking for feedback, you can be specific too. You can ask, “What’s one thing I could work on? What’s one thing that’s getting in my own way?” Clarify what you’re working on and what would help you. For instance, there might be ten ways you could improve the presentation you just did, but right now you just want feedback on connecting with a group at the very beginning of a presentation.
Cherry pick the feedback:
Just because feedback normally improves you, does not mean that you start re- inventing the wheel every time you get feedback. There are times when feedback is meant to be ignored.Yes, if the intention of the feedback is to help you in some way and it’s not. Then you may have to say, “You’re trying to help me, but this is actually just making me anxious and upset.”
If you feel that the person is not listening to your response and doesn’t seem to care that the feedback is upsetting you or doesn’t make sense to you-that’s a problem. There comes a point when it’s just better to say, “I’m not going to discuss this anymore.”
Therefore, you can actually feed on feedback. Do not get upset by it or stung by it. Life would always offer you stimuli- you may call it feedback, how you respond to it is your choice.
After all, between the stimulus and response lies… what we call LIFE…