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Feb
07 2012

Feedback is a Gift (but not in that horrible fake way you’re thinking)

Syndicated from: Box of Crayons

“Feedback is a gift” Man, I hate that lyin’ stinkin’ statement. At least, I hate it when it’s offered up from the person giving it to the person receiving it. Certainly, having another person’s perspective on what’s going on can be useful and enlightening. But often what we’re given in feedback is a hellish cocktail of Data-free prejudice My reality is better than your reality This is a command but I’m calling it feedback And for some reason we’re supposed to be grateful for this download of … stuff that in fact often tells us far more about the person giving the feedback than the person receiving it. Feedback = pain This isn’t a metaphor. On a neurological level, starting a statement, “Let me give you some feedback…” actually lights up the same pain circuits as being physically hit. And to add insult to injury, this social pain lasts far longer than physical pain. (Think of the last time you hurt yourself. You can remember the moment but you can’t really remember the actual pain. Now think of the last time you were humiliated or shamed and you can feel that shame again right now. ) But feedback IS a gift The time it’s most useful to hold this perspective is when you’re the one giving the feedback. Not as a moment of self-congratulization, but as an insight to who’s responsible for acting on the feedback. Too often we think that giving feedback means we’ve conveyed a clear request for change and we expect that to happen. But if your feedback is a gift, then the feedback is the other person’s to do with what they will. They can implement, reinterpret it, ignore it altogether. They get to make the choice on how to use the feedback you’ve offered up. An adult to adult conversation The fundamental philosophy behind all of the Box of Crayons’ programs is to help people build and maintain adult to adult relationships in the organizations in which they work. I think that means two things. First, in the words of Peter Block, it means “giving people responsibility for their own freedom”. Second, as a way of taking responsibility, it means asking for what you want knowing the answer may be no. What does that mean for your feedback? Here are the three useful tips for giving feedback that sticks. 1. Ask them how they like their feedback Everyone wins when you know the most likely way to get your feedback heard. 2. If you offer up feedback, see if you can untangle the facts from your judgments about the facts. You’ll be surprised just how little data there is within the huge cloud of opinion. 3. Ask them what was useful about the feedback Everyone wins when you (and they) know just what worked (and therefore what didn’t). 4. If you want them to do something, ask them to do something Don’t hope it’s “obvious” in the subtext of the feedback. It isn’t. If you’d like your team or your organization to get a little better at this tricky skill, you might like to take a peak at The Last Feedback Workshop You’ll Ever Need.

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