What has been your greatest lesson or achievement this year? Mine has been simple but profound; Slowing down. A while back my friend made a comment that got me thinking. After watching one of my short recorded videos he asked, “were you on a timer?”. “No” I answered. “You sounded like you were, the video content was nice but very hurried. I struggled to keep up.” This was genuine feedback. However, as always we rarely take feedback seriously the first time. The only reason I did not jump on the defense is because he was a friend who had no reason or history of putting me down. When feedback comes from your greatest cheerleader it is easier to take but it still leaves you wondering if the situation is that bad.
A few weeks later I received similar feedback. A concerned audience in a speaking session requested me to ‘Slow down’. Luckily this also came in on a polite note; “English is not my first language so I am struggling to keep up kindly slow down.” This was a confirmation that I actually talk too fast. Previously a classmate had mentioned it but I would unconsciously manage it in face to face training because it’s easy to pause ask questions and make illustrations on flip charts. I however realized with recorded videos and virtual speaking sessions the pace was too fast for some people to catch up.
I made it my goal to intentionally slow down. It was obviously not easy. Breaking a lifetime pattern takes effort, time and commitment. My friend was quick to give feedback when he started noting the change and that was comforting. Interestingly my training partners who had never mentioned it also noted the change. More importantly I have found it less exhausting especially when running long day virtual trainings. That is the power of feedback. We all need someone who can give well intentioned and effective feedback for our improvement and growth.
If you are lucky you might get well designed constructive feedback like I did. In most cases however you will get negative feedback or feedback that feels like it’s coming from the wrong person or context. Whatever the case, remember that every feedback counts and it could be an opportunity for you to learn and grow. Next time you want to dismiss any feedback first consider below pointers;
- Control your defensiveness – Defensiveness, anger, justifying, and excuse-making will ensure that people are not comfortable giving you feedback and deny you a chance to learn.
- Listen to understand not to respond – Use body language and facial expression that encourage the other person to talk.
- Try to suspend judgement – in learning the views of the feedback provider, you learn about yourself and how your actions are interpreted and perceived in the world.
- Summarize and reflect on what you heard – Rather than using the little voice in your head to argue, deny, or formulate your response while they are speaking, focus on making sure that you understand the point of view you are receiving.
- Ask questions to clarify – Focus on questions that will make you understand the feedback.
- Ask for examples – Ask for specific examples and stories so that you know you share meaning with the person providing feedback. When and where or under what circumstances did they perceive the actions about which they are providing feedback.
- Keep things in perspective – Just because a person gives you feedback, does not mean that their perception is right or even widely shared by others. Remember that they see your actions or hear your words and interpret them through their own perceptual screen and life experiences.
- Check with others – If only one person believes what you heard in the feedback about you, it may be just about him or her and their perceptions, not about you. Check with other people who can identify with the feedback given.
- Be approachable – People avoid giving feedback to those who are grumpy and dismissive. Your openness to feedback is evident through your body language, facial expressions, and welcoming manner. You can also request feedback verbally asking questions such as, “How did I do on that presentation?
- Decide on the feedback reliability – you have the right and the ability to decide what to do with the feedback you have received. It is up to you to check it out with others, seek out examples, and then, decide if the feedback is worth doing something about.
“It takes humility to seek feedback, wisdom to understand it, analyze it and act on it appropriately” Stephen Covey