Yesterday we talked about giving feedback. So today, let’s transition into receiving feedback.
An interesting question occurred to me earlier this week: why is there such an emphasis on how to give feedback and so little focus on how to receive feedback?
Here’s my working theory: practicing how to give feedback is more common because giving feedback is hard . . . because so many people are reactive about receiving feedback!
That makes sense, right? Think about it.
No matter how much you care, how much you prepare, or how good you are at giving feedback, you’re still at the mercy of the other person’s thoughts and feelings. You influence at best. As I explained yesterday, it’s your responsibility to give great feedback, which starts with intention and purpose, but they’re in control of how it’s perceived and received.
If more people were disciplined, receptive, and considerate about receiving feedback, giving would be much easier. The process would at least be smoother. But because we know people can get emotional and reactive, we get anxious before the conversation begins. We anticipate, worry, and obsess over all the imagined ways someone might negatively react.
Think about people in your life who take feedback well and those who don’t. Now, consider the difference in your mindset and emotions as you prepare to give feedback to each kind of person. I bet it’s drastically different. Ironically, I bet you’re better at providing feedback to receptive people and shakier at giving it to resistant people.
This breaks my heart because the more difficult the conversation, the better we need to be and the worse we tend to do.
At a minimum, people are highly variable in how they handle feedback. You’re not sure how they’re going to react. That unknown makes giving feedback much harder than it needs to be.
But today’s message isn’t about how you give feedback. That was yesterday. The punchline of all this today is:
What is it like to provide you with feedback? Do you make it hard or easy?
You don’t control how someone else gives and receives feedback. Instead, you own how you receive feedback (and, of course, how you present it too).
You know what it feels like to be nervous and afraid to give feedback for fear of how they’ll react. You know what it feels like to care deeply, work hard to be fair and considerate, and still have that person get resentful and defensive. You know precisely how hard it is to be good at giving feedback to someone resistant, reactive, or dismissive about receiving it.
Don’t expect anyone else to be good at giving you feedback until you are excellent at receiving feedback.
As a person, the better you are at receiving feedback, the better people will become at giving it to you. As a team, the better everyone is at receiving feedback, the better everyone will get at giving feedback.
It might be time to adjust your skill focus from how you give feedback to how you receive it.
Answer the call. Do the work.
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Brian Kight is a multi-industry leader on the topics of leadership, culture, and behavior. He provides simple systems that produce exceptional results for organizations, teams, and people.