A colleague of mine, Brian Goines, Sr., once said,
“Using pretty words to explain ugly truths is exhausting.”
Half of the words in this quote are subjective, but I absolutely love this line. Words like “pretty”, “ugly”, “truths”, and even “exhausting” mean very different things depending on context. This is why the work of Byron Katie is important. The tool she uses is one of the most loving and kind approaches I’ve seen related to getting to the heart of the truth. Interestingly enough, the user of her “worksheet” is almost always the one whose mind changes about the “truth.”
As it relates to truthful feedback, the majority of those involved (giving and receiving) are not fans of it. Feedback-givers usually have several associates to provide feedback for within an often-brief time period. As a result, they become overwhelmed and just want to get the task “completed”. Those receiving feedback spend far too much time defending against it. We try to find all the ways that what was said to us was wrong, ugly or untrue versus leaning in and attempting to find the truth in the statements and moving on. If there is no truth, file it away and move on. If there is some truth, decide what to do with that truth and move on. Regardless of the path we take, the key to moving forward is to MOVE ON. However, we do everything but move on. We stir. We spin. We obsess over what’s been said.
Then perhaps you are one of the individuals who came up with the adage “feedback is a gift?”
The gift I want to re-gift some time before the winter holidays roll around! Speaking in sweeping generalizations, I’ve noticed that there are two kinds of feedback givers. There are people who give you the unbridled, direct, truth type of feedback. These people, while honest, hurt feelings…often. Then there are people who know exactly how to soften messages. However, as Susan Scott says in her book, Fierce Conversations, they put too many “pillows” around the message. Their messages are so soft that the receiver of the feedback is confused if he or she heard the message at all.
Back feeding! Back feeding is a flow of energy in the reverse direction from its normal flow. The term is used to describe electrical energy. However, it could be a useful term and process for resolving the feedback problem once and for all. We know from research that good, solid feedback is helpful in development. Therefore, instead of waiting for someone to offer it to you, ask for it.
Marshall Goldsmith introduced us to the practice of Feedforward, which is basically reversing the flow of feedback. The receiver asks for the feedback. Using this method, you restore your power and control your own destiny. I love the Feedforward method but believe that the giver could still use some help. Therefore, this practice should be combined with the Feedback Model of Alan Fine in order for it to really work because people have consistently demonstrated that they can’t handle feedback. Here are the steps everyone should take to elicit direct, honest and kind feedback that is closer to the truth.
1. Celebrate yourself. – Share where you think you are doing a great job on a project, in a development area, with a team, etc. You share what is working. This step is important. I often hear that people are frustrated with negative feedback because the other party never sees the positive. Here’s your opportunity to get in front of that potential problem.
2. Be open. – Be transparent about the areas where you are struggling (getting stuck) – you probably already know your own shortfalls. That’s another reason we get peeved. When someone shares our shortcomings, we resent them. We say to ourselves, “What? Do you think I’m not self-aware or something?”
3. Ask for advice. – Practice saying these words, “Based on what I’ve shared with you that is worth celebrating and the information I’ve shared about where I’m getting stuck, what is the best next step you think I could take to further improve?” Here you have opened the door and made it safe for the feedback-giver to share. Don’t forget that YOU decided to do this step.
4. Practice! – Try it. Do it a few times. Reflect on what happens to your emotions. Focus on the good suggestions you happen upon. Make adjustments that work for you and the people in your circles.
Following these steps will assist you with not only obtaining direct, honest and kind feedback, but also enabling you to receive it in a manner that is helpful to your development as an individual personally and professionally.