In my most recent blog post I discussed that we receive many form of feedback, and that not all feedback is created equal.
In this post I want to talk about how we receive feedback, rather than choosing the type of feedback we seek and respond to.
When I talk about how to receive feedback in this instance, I’m not talking about listening skills per se, though they are vital. Rather, I’m referring to your frame of mind when receiving the feedback.
Receiving feedback can (and, sometimes, should) be difficult and challenging. This can even be true of positive feedback, for example if you are being praised for a job you’re not particularly proud of or if you feel co-contributors aren’t getting the recognition they deserve; or if you are naturally shy, unassuming, or struggle with self-esteem. I’m sure many of you reading this have been recognised for a job well-done whilst simultaneously suffering imposter syndrome.
Receiving negative feedback brings a different set of challenges. You may feel the feedback is unfair or unwarranted. You may, rightly or wrongly, construe it as more a personal attack than a form of professional support.
The first and most important thing to recognise is that you can’t control the feedback you receive, who you receive it from or, often, when you are going to receive it.
What you can control is how you ‘show up’ to the conversation.
When receiving feedback, I am focused on two things. My core values, and my emotional reaction.
Years of dealing with distressed behaviours in the young people in my care has given me the ability to give them the space they need to work through their emotions before making any attempt to support or guide them. I take this same, almost stoic, approach to receiving feedback. I let the other person say what they need to before I respond. Let them get it out of their system. This not only lets them feel heard, it also gives me the time and space I need to formulate my considered response.
This is especially important if the feedback is emotionally charged or if I feel it challenges one of my core values. If I feel my integrity or focus on positive outcomes for young people is being challenged, I feel threatened and want to correct the other person immediately. Just as a dysregulated adult cannot help a dysregulated child, meeting such emotional ‘attacks’ with an emotional response will only result in an argument. Once I have processed what is being said I can respond in a much calmer fashion.
An example of this is the strain that sometimes occurs between balancing the cost of good care vs the need for a company to make profit. Wherever possible I unapologetically put the needs of the people in my care first. Were I to receive feedback that I should be focused on profit first, this would be an attack on my values.
Responding immediately and emotionally to this would result in a fruitless argument. Instead, it’s best to consider how the feedback can enable me to lean in to my values. Could I have achieved the same outcome in a more cost-effective manner? Could I have delayed my actions until an opportunity to meet both demands arose?
If the feedback doesn’t enable you to lean in to your values in any way, you may be at an impasse. You may need to take a close look at your relationship with the other person. What’s more important to you, your values or your relationship with them? If the answer is your relationship, then perhaps it’s time to reassess what your values actually are. Values are the behaviours and choices you live, not those you profess to have. If the answer is your values, then you need to reconsider the relationship.
Whatever your response, it will be more meaningful and effective if you give yourself the space to process and reflect on what’s been said and why.
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