Feedback Champ

This week's trek is inspired by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen's research on how to receive feedback well even when it's not so pretty.

Did you cringe a little just now?

I know I do when I hear those words. Because when someone says they need to talk it often means criticism is coming. We all know that compliments don’t require a calendar invite and a proper sit down to discuss.

Feedback conversations are tricky because they’re another version of the talk. The “your teacher called” talk or the “where is this relationship going” talk. They feel thorny as an adult because you can’t respond to them the same way you did as a child and still expect people to love you. You can’t whine or yell or blame it on your friend Sarah. You have to listen and, if needed, defend your case in a calm and rational fashion. And that's hard to do, especially when it feels personal.

Learning to take feedback like a champ is worth it, though. A
s Stone and Hess argue, "feedback makes our relationships richer, our self-esteem more secure, and of course, we learn" more about ourselves.

Introducing Your Feedback Champ Exercise

What It Is
A 30-minute exercise to help you get better at receiving feedback.

Why We Love It 
There are lots of tips out there on how to give feedback, but not always as much guidance on how to take it like a champ. This exercise offers up a straightforward way to approach receiving feedback, so you can learn more about yourself and make the changes you need to grow. #adulting

How It Works
1. Be Proactive: Ask a friend, partner, or coworker to give you feedback based on the following: What is something I've done recently that went well and something I can improve on?

2. Record + Play it Back: During the feedback session, write out the feedback you're given. This will help you take note of what’s actually being said as opposed to letting your bias run amok. Then, take a few minutes to go over your notes and verbally play back a summary of what was said. The goal here is to make sure you understand what the person is trying to say, not to find fault with their feedback.

3. Note Your Triggers: As you summarize and discuss, take note of what might be triggering your emotions and try asking open ended questions to get more clarity. Here are common triggers and suggested responses.

  • Not Actionable: Feeling like the feedback isn't something you can act on. Ask for more specifics by saying something like, “It sounds like I’m not doing X. What’s one thing I can do starting tomorrow that would be a step in the right direction?” 

  • Not Applicable: Feeling like the feedback isn't accurate or helpful. Ask for more context by saying something like, “Could you give me another example of where I might be doing this?” Keep in mind that some feedback is simply not correct and that people can get the wrong impression of you. It's also possible that you can't see what they're saying (hello, blind spot!) and so you assume it isn't true. In this instance, try to look for a small shred of truth. Could what they're saying be true in some instances? If so, what might those be?

  • Not Qualified: Thinking the person giving it isn't qualified to do so. Remember that you asked this person for feedback so you put them in a position to feel qualified. You don’t have to take every piece of advice they give, especially if you feel they aren’t well positioned to focus on certain things. Instead, focus the conversation on feedback areas you feel they're equipped to discuss.

  • Under Attack: Feeling like your identity is under attack. Remind yourself that you asked this person for feedback because you trust them. While what they are saying might be uncomfortable, it doesn’t mean they are fundamentally questioning who you are. Try responding with something like, “This feels personal because of X. I know you are trying to help me, but I am having a hard time hearing you because it feels so personal.”

4. Give Your POV: Once understanding is reached, take a few minutes to provide your perspective. If you have a different version of the facts, present them. The goal here is to make sure the feedback giver understands where you are coming from in case you are both bringing different POVs to the table.

5. Agree on the Change: The final step is about getting very clear on how your behavior needs to change. Ask for examples of what good would look like and talk through how you might need support in making that change. If there’s something they brought up that you don’t feel you need to change, it’s ok to say that you still aren't clear and would like to give it time and revisit.

6. Decompress: Give yourself a few minutes after the feedback meeting to decompress. Go for a walk, listen to your favorite song, write out your feelings, or call a friend. It’s natural after these conversations to have a range of thoughts and emotions swirling in your mind. Give yourself space to process before moving on to the next thing.

Want to dig deeper? Feedback is meaty topic that goes beyond this specific trek. Hit us up at treks@lifetrekkers.me with burning questions and comments. In the meantime, here are some goodies for the gunners:
Best of 2018: We want to hear from you!
Since we're talking about feedback, we want to hear from you for a Best of 2018 Feature in November. Hit us up at treks@lifetrekkers.me to tell us which treks you've loved and which you've loathed and why. Check out the archive here.
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Shankar Desai