It’s a truth universally acknowledged that when one hears the word “feedback,” one thinks “criticism.” The face twists in a cringe, and one wants nothing more than to run fast, run far and insert one’s head into a hole in the ground.
Feedback is uncomfortable.
Getting feedback on our work is one thing. That kind of feedback comes with the territory; we expect it and usually take it objectively because it’s about our work, not us. But getting feedback on our professional or personal performance? Yikes.
So let’s shed some light on what feedback really is: a gift.
Myth: Feedback includes only the negative.
I can think of no bigger, more pervasive or more damaging myth about feedback than this whopper of a lie. Yes, it’s necessary to know what’s broken. But knowing what works is just as valuable.
Feedback is just feedback. It’s taking note of works, what doesn’t and what can be done better even if what you’re doing isn’t necessarily wrong.
Truth: People only provide feedback if they’re invested in you.
No news does not mean good news.
I once worked with someone who was brilliant but difficult. Amazingly talented. Excellent at his craft. Creative abilities surpassed only by his ability to be abrasive. Several of us spent more than a year giving him feedback so he could grow in his people skills. Eventually we gave up and quit trying because it wasn’t worth the investment.
When people offer you feedback, they’re investing in your growth.
Myth: Being open to feedback means making all the changes.
Absolutely untrue. Feedback is subjective. A single piece of feedback is one person’s opinion.
Being open to feedback just means:
- applying what makes sense
- discarding the rest
If everyone took everyone else’s feedback to heart, we’d all be unsolved compilations of what everyone else thinks. Not the way to live.
Truth: Quality feedback can come from anyone.
Many people look strictly to superiors within the company or experts or industry veterans for feedback and direction. Yes, looking to others with more experience is valuable. So is looking to those whom you may not think could help at all.
People in different disciplines, departments, occupations, walks of life and so on. Some of your most valuable, powerful feedback can come from anyone.
Myth: Feedback should always be balanced.
Ever heard of the “Feedback Sandwich”? People who don’t want to be mean or hurt someone’s feelings say something positive, then something negative, then something positive.
Problems with the Feedback Sandwich:
- People ignore the positive and focus on the negative.
- People ignore the negative and focus on the negative.
- The main point trying to be made is softened to the point of pointlessness.
Feedback that’s focused on the point trying to be made is more effective.
Truth: Effective feedback is rarely sugar-coated.
Again, people who don’t want to be mean or hurt someone’s feelings try to soften the blow. Being professional is one thing. Being too soft with your feedback is another.
Some of the most effective feedback I’ve received over the years has been brutally honest.
- I lacked confidence.
- I needed to find my voice.
- My proofreading needs work.
- I need to be more diplomatic when dealing with certain people.
- I need to coach more, edit less.
Every single point was made bluntly. In some cases, my feelings were hurt and I cried. (And that’s okay.) Every single point was taken. And I’ve surpassed expectations for each. All because the feedback was delivered with brutal honesty and avoided the sandwich.
Feedback is a gift.
We’re often blind to our own blind spots—and what we’re doing right. We’re our own worst critics and blindest champions. Feedback points out both.