Feed · back | \ ˈfēd-ˌbak\
Definition of feedback
the transmission of evaluative or corrective information about an action, event, or process to the original or controlling source
Truth be told, we are not comfortable with difficult conversations.
We don’t know how to receive and give feedback in order to get things done. Maybe because in reality, feedback sits at the core of two human needs: the one to get better, and our need to be accepted, respected, and loved for how we are now.
Navigating the uncertain waters of feedback is definitely challenging.
Feedback is often expressed as “This is how you are… this is a problem, now fix it. However, “this is how you are” really means: “This is how you are in a relationship to who I am” An entirely different interpretation!
Harvard Law School lecturer and author, Sheila Heen, argues that instead of changing the way people give feedback, we should focus on getting better at receiving it. Heen identifies three conditions that cause people to mishandle feedback:
- “Truth triggers” — the inability to determine what people are trying to say
- “Relationship triggers” — the difficulty accepting feedback from certain people
- “Identity triggers” — the negative emotions that run beneath the surface of what we hear
When we overcome these barriers and open ourselves up to receiving feedback, it can fuel our growth and relationships.
For example, when receiving feedback, we can sometimes be taken off guard. We might be receiving feedback from someone who lacks delivery skills; or we might be at the hands of a skilled person, but we don’t know their intentions. When we receive a piece of challenging feedback, we tend to “wrong spot” — we name all the things that are wrong about the feedback.
Strategies for Success
First, stay aligned with your values: when on the receiving end of giving feedback, stay curious as a way to stay connected to your values.Second, disentangle the “what” from the “who”. If the feedback is wise, it shouldn’t matter who delivers it (but it too often does).
On the giving end of giving challenging feedback?
Remind yourself that there may be things on the other side of the situation that you need to know and that staying open and curious is a good way to gather that information.
Practice staying present. Take the time to learn what your default tendency is when it comes to offloading discomfort, and then practice not implementing this strategy. Some typical strategies are anger, blame, pretending we aren’t uncomfortable, and numbing to name a few.
Do you know your go-to strategy?
Learning, growing, improving, it MUST be uncomfortable. We keep being reminded time and time again that all miracles happen outside of our comfort zone.
The bottom line is that difficult conversation related to feedback is a challenge for most of us, however, if we want to live a life that allows for expansion and growth, we have to practice both giving and receiving it.
When you need to have a difficult conversation, you need to be ready to sit on the same side of the table, as opposed to face to face. We want to be on the same team, not in opposition.
The Engaged checklist from Brené Brown
I know that I’m ready to give feedback when …
I’m ready to sit next to you rather than across from you.
I’m willing to put the problem in front of us rather than between us (or sliding it toward you).
I’m ready to listen, ask questions, and accept that I may not fully understand the issue.
I’m ready to acknowledge what you do well instead of picking apart your mistakes.
I recognize your strengths and how you can use them to address your challenges.
I can hold you accountable without shaming or blaming. I am open to owning my part.
I can genuinely thank someone for their efforts rather than criticize them for their failings.
I can talk about how resolving these challenges will lead to growth and opportunity.
I can model the vulnerability and openness that I expect to see from you.
To receive feedback, we must be brave and we must be ready to listen. In the end, we can take what’s helpful and leave the rest.
To give feedback, we must be clear. Period. This will avoid the loss in translation.
Danielle Imbeault, RN, Senior Director Strategic Capability Solutions, has more than 15 years of experience in capability and leadership building in the pharmaceutical industry. She is a creative, results-driven, international pediatric nurse, with 25 years of global pharmaceutical experience, project management, and scientific learning capability and leadership building. She has extensive qualifications in all facets of drug development, scientific learning and onboarding programs within matrix organizations. Danielle possesses strong strategic planning skills, from performing need analysis through implementation and evaluation of impact on business.