Feedback is a language of its own - and you can learn it.
Feedback is a system of signals between you and the world. Every time you interpret a situation or some information you hear you then give your "answer", your reaction, to it. It can be neutral, negative or positive, or you may choose to simply ignore. In any way it's an answer to what happened given back. Your response then induces another response and so it continues. The word is mostly used around business issues, but the way I see it is that we get this kind of information packed replies from all over. When I try on a pair of shoes and they don't fit, that's feedback too. I teach this view hoping that the stress around giving and receiving feedback will be not as intense if we think of it in that way.
I recently attended a seminar where one exercise was giving information to oneanother on what the other person might want to improve about themselves. It was a fair exercise, we were not meant to be negative, just helpful and supportive. But surprisingly enough most participants felt very uncomfortable about both giving and, even more, receiving the comments and suggestions.
What most seemed to forget was that the respons was one persons view, and that person hardly represents the whole world. Although, if one gets the same feedback from many there may be some accuracy to it, and one might need to look into that issue more closely. However the information is served, you always have a choice on how to react to it.
When things don't develope as you had hoped they would your reaction may be negative. You may get angry, blame someone else or some circumstance you think you had no control over. This kind of respons, how common it may be, is not very productive.
Did you ever have an argument with someone? That argument began because at least one of you had expected a reaction or answer that did not appear, felt disappointment and took it out on (blamed) the other person. Some of these threads of proof (of my theses) are quite obvious and some require a bit of detective work. Here's an example from my own life.
One friday evening my husband and I are invited to some friends for dinner. It's a casual event and I let my husband understand that there is no need to dress up. When it's time to go it seems to me he has forgotten to change his clothes and yet he says that he is ready. I ask him if that's the outfit he's going to wear. He affirms. My question was feedback to his choice. I expected him to react to my question by putting on something else, and his answer was feedback to my interference with his decision. Not that my question was wrong or for that matter my right to ask a question. Just that I wanted to change his decision and his respons told me I was out of line. I was disappointed he didn't want to dress up more than what he did. My expectations were too high. I told him he looked like a slob, and the argument was a fact.
How could an argument have been avoided? Well, I certainly could have communicated more clearly that I wanted to put on something nice for the evening and it would make me feel better if he would too. But of course, that's all I could do. And whatever his feedback to me would be I'd have to accept his choice, as he should accept mine.
If I choose to be cranky about it then what I'm relly doing is to refuse to be acceptive to something I had not planned. When we learn from feedback we learn that there's more than one way to do things.
Instead of going to the party as Mr and Mrs Charming we went as The Beauty and The Beast. That works too!
Between friends, feedback is sometimes unnecessary and other times a sword.
On rare occassions good friends disagree on a subject. If the friendship and the comrades are mature the differences are accepted without further ado. (However, with the exception of disagreements involving very strong emotions. More on that below.) The disagreement can instead be an opportunity to learn new approaches, see new angles and open up to insights and personal growth. It is so much easier to open oneself up, to expose any weakness, learn and heal again before a dear friend, where you feel safe and loved. The respons to thoughts, words and actions are usually respected and considered, becomming seeds for growth.
Strong emotions connected to feelings and memories from our past can disrupt our behaviour. Make us "go out of line" and say hurtful things.
Good friend or not these situations can be hard to predict. If you and a friend have found yourself in such circumstance you have a choice. Do not part, whether in anger or with patched friendship between you. Give each other the chance to heal for real and take the time to sit together and speak your stories, and listen back with your heart open with love. This will heal you and build your relationship even stronger. For the rest of your life you will remember the moment as one of the best.
Giving and receiving feedback is a challenge for most. Even that which we call positive feedback seem to be both troublesome to give and receive. If you feel you are not as appreciated at home or at work as you feel you deserve to be, then you probably feel dissatisfied. Some words of appraisal would change that. As you probably know; The best way to get what you want is to give what you want, to someone else.
You can hear comments like: "I don't have to give any positive comments to anyone. No one says anything nice to me, ever." These are common thoughts. However not often said aloud. And the Remedy is: Do it anyway. You'd be surprised how quickly the compliments, the positive evaluations, friends and favors start to show up, from all possible directions.
Thus, the next challenge; To recieve. No matter what your history of recieving compliments and appreciation is take this technique to heart and master it:
⇒ Turn to the person who gave the feedback and look him/her straight and calm in the eyes. Be quiet for a second, no more than two, and say "Thank you" with a clear voice and a glimps of happiness in your eyes and corner of your mouth. No more. Just the Thank you words. No kiss, hug or explanation, no excuse. Nothing. It's a challenge, but you can do it.
Criticism then. As discussed above, all your reactions to what you experience are feedback to that. You applaud after a performance you liked and you don't buy a pair of shoes if they're not comfortable. No matter how much you are "right" in your opinion, there is for certain someone else who found the performance to be poor or the shoes to fit perfectly. Hence, your opinion is not the opinion of The World. It's only yours. It may be you represent a company or a group of people, and then so you do. But you do not represent the country, the continent or the world. If you have that thought of perspective in mind next time you want to or are required to give respons to someone else's words or performance it is likely to shine through by your choice of words and tone. You reflect a view, as important as it may be, from an extreemly small part of the world.
You might want to consider the circumstances of how the performance you want to criticize turned out as it did. Perhaps your request was not clear enough, you didn't provide enough or correct information, you didn't take into account the time to prepare or ability aspect of the performer. Have you been considerate enough, compassionate enough?
As a receiver of negative feedback you really only have one choice. To realize that the information given to you, no matter how badly delivered, is the most valuable information, and you'd be a fool to not listen to it. There is always something to learn from feedback.
If you are treated very badly, the lesson probably is to not ask that person again, and perhaps avoid him/her altogether.
Top of Feedback
Back to Stress Management