Feedback: It's Not You, It's Me
Let me be honest with you. I have a difficult relationship with feedback. Always have. It’s been like this for as long as I can remember. Maybe it’s the result of being an only child and having my parent’s attention always directed at me, or maybe it is the performer in me that is constantly looking to fill that attention sucking black hole inside my chest. Regardless, I have always struggled with my relationship with feedback.
I’m the guy that absolutely soars when I receive positive feedback. It is the wings beneath my wings. Nothing gets me more charged up than getting a nice pat on the back for a job well done. Great presentation? Oh yeah baby, tell more. Client is thrilled with my services? Oh mama, lay it on me. The problem is that being so motivated by external praise has led me to be insecure, needy and quite frankly annoying. How can I truly be satisfied with what I accomplish if I am always looking for that validation from somebody else? Tricky, right?
In addition to that, the other side of the coin is even uglier. I LOATHE negative feedback. I know, I know, I should see it as constructive feedback, but I can’t help but feel that it’s a dig at me. Personally. Sometimes I go to a pretty dark place and question my whole being, just because someone told me that I could have done better. I know, pretty messed up right? Well, we all have our stuff to deal with, and this is mine.
I think my negative relationship with feedback developed from my deep desire to be myself and feeling that anything pointed out negatively was someone trying to change who I was. I can clearly attest that 99% of time that was not the case. However, I developed such a correlation with people’s feedback and opinions that I took any of it as a personal attack. My poor wife couldn’t even comment on the shirt I was wearing without a conversation ensuing about how she was trying to change me. I mean, why did she even care? The truth is that she cares because she loves me. She wants the best for me. This is her way of helping me. If only I could accept it.
I was never one to fight feedback unless it was with my loved ones, I felt comfortable blowing shit up in those cases (sorry dad). I typically suffered in silence, listening, not fighting back, and then wallowing in my discontent. Being the self-aware person that I preached to be, I knew that this was not good. I had to figure out a way to deal with this. Here are some things that I have tried to apply to lessen the blow of receiving constructive feedback.
FEEDBACK IS A GIFT
I am sure you heard this. If someone gives you feedback, you should treat it as if you are receiving a gift. Be thankful and gracious to that person and accept it. This is all true. What people fail to realize is that, just because someone gave you a gift, does not mean you have to take it and use it. Think of a wedding shower. All your family and friends are gathered and are giving you gifts to start your life. There is always that one person that skips the registry and gives you something that is worthless (yes, I am looking at you buffet tray). Maybe they thought that gift would be valuable to you, or maybe they were running late and had to re-gift something they received in the past. Regardless, not all gifts are created equal. Some of them will work great for you. Some of them will stay in your basement until your next garage sale. The point is that you take the gift graciously, then you review it and see if it can work for you. Just because you received it does not mean you need to apply it.
***BIG FAT DISCLAIMER – This is not an excuse for you to just ignore all feedback you receive. There is feedback that we need to hear AND apply. The key here is self-reflection in relation to the feedback. If it is valid and can benefit you, by all means fire up that fondue pot. If not…
LET IT GO
Have you ever had someone give you constructive feedback you did not agree with only to have it swirl around in your head for days, even months, ruining everything you do? Well it used to happen to me all the time. Constructive feedback could ruin it for me. It would send me in an obsessive spiral that only led to me being distracted and not getting anything done.
You see, I am originally from Brazil, and Brazilians tend to tell you exactly what is on their minds. ALL THE TIME. No filter. They are just providing you with information. No malicious intent, just letting you know. Your daughter just got a hair cut? It’s a little too short, just saying. You started writing a blog? You know, you should try and keep it short, just saying. Had a good presentation? You know, the venue wasn’t the greatest, just saying.
I used to mull on these things for days!!! How dare they comment on my shoes. What do they even know about presentations?? I can’t believe they just can’t be supportive. Until I realized that it was not the feedback. It was me. I was the one obsessing over it. I was the one that kept it close to my chest. So I started letting it go.
My favorite phrase became: “ok, got it”. You need to do something about your hair… Ok, got it! You should schedule some follow up with these companies… Ok, got it! That shirt is a little too tight… Ok, got it!
The feedback I feel is valuable for my growth and well-being I do something about it. The others, I just let it go. No longer will I suffer just because I don’t agree with their feedback.
IT GOES BOTH WAYS
Now you may be saying… well Andre, that is pretty egomaniacal of you. So, you just pick what you agree with and go with it? Isn’t that like watching FOX News and being a staunch Republican? Well, kind of. You can certainly fall into that trap. The key is to be self-aware and make hard decisions when analyzing the feedback. Both good and bad.
If I choose to dismiss constructive feedback I feel will not improve my current condition, the same should be done to the positive feedback I receive. Just because my aunt in Brazil hearts my blog post, does not necessarily mean it’s the bee’s knees. I need to be objective with feedback at both ends of the spectrum. That will allow me to truly apply the feedback that will make a difference moving forward. That will allow me to grow. Which is what feedback is intended to do.
Andre Mello is a Business Coach and regardless of what he says, wants to hear your feedback in the comments section. He has been in Marketing and Leadership for over 17 years. If you would like to connect with Andre, please visit www.wysecoaching.com.