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4 ways to make feedback more useful

Being proactive and self-preserving

When receiving good feedback, it’s probably best to be humbled and appreciative. And on receiving quality feedback, it’s great if we can demonstrate gratitude by acting on it.

But how about when we receive feedback that isn’t what we expected or sought? Sometimes we don’t want to hear what’s hard on the ear and heart – especially if we recognise a painful truth. But what if that feedback isn’t balanced or seems to be from a suspicious agenda, and perhaps throws our confidence?


How can we seek and receive feedback in the right way?  Let’s consider some difficult scenarios and how to handle them:


1.  Self-promoters

Carl requested feedback on his work performance from his colleague, Simon. Simon advised a rethink of Carl’s suit, basing it on his own fashion sense and justifying himself as a valid authority because of being in a creative, design role.

A little stunned and none the wiser as to his work performance, Carl didn’t know how to respond.

Whether someone like feels qualified, simply wants to be vocal, or is being self-promoting isn’t worth our attention. But because we’re in a vulnerable ‘wanting to be liked’ position, it’s hard to respond objectively – outwardly or to ourselves.

But isn’t it best to note an individual’s feedback, then go away and independently consider it, and – if we feel a strong resistance to their standpoint – to look at what we know first?


2.  Giving weight to only one person’s opinion

Gareth was asked to present on, what he’d found to be, the most successful and very specific implementation aspect of his near-completed project. Then he received feedback that the language was wrong because it didn’t apply to the (whole of the business) audience. Yet the recommended alternative would have been incorrect and misleading. So who should he listen to?

He examined his purpose and concluded it best to stick with his original. But what if self-doubt had over-rated that single, critical opinion?

The easiest way to prevent excessive doubt letting a negative, critical or disagreeing comment rule our thoughts and push us to adopt a single strong opinion – is to seek wider feedback. Seeking multiple opinions – until we feel sufficiently informed – pays dividends in clarity, certainty and a well-reasoned conclusion.


3.  Requesting specific feedback to avoid unnecessary ‘opinion’

When writing a report, Amy asked for feedback on the way the data were presented. But everyone wanted to be her copywriter, editing her words here and there. Few commented on the data and report content. She’d sought feedback the quality of information and its value to others. But what she meant hadn’t got across.

In her second request Amy included only the particular sections she needed feedback for, and what specified the sort of feedback she was expecting. Be warned, though. People still couldn’t resist giving their “if I was writing this though, I’d say…” advice!


4.  Forgiving the accidentally offensive or game-playing

Whilst it’s undeniable that some people do use feedback to undermine and manipulate, often its damage or ineffectiveness is unintentional. So when someone gives feedback that leaves us bruised or offended, then perhaps forgiveness and giving them the benefit of doubt is best? If possible, it could help to give them feedback – on their feedback style, vocabulary or timing. It’s a gift to give and receive feedback and an extra to be able to give someone ways to improve their chances of both.

We often take feedback to heart, not realising that we don’t have to. Not many people actually enjoy criticism, so many won’t seek it at all. Best be aware and open-eyed but not naïve or vulnerable. Why break down our feedback-seeking such that we don’t dare seek more, valuable, feedback?


By being both proactive AND self-preserving, can’t we make feedback work harder for us?


Other articles you may like:

Unplugged – breaking your smartphone addiction

Like riding a bike – feedback as a life skill

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