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The Art of Embracing Feedback: Transforming Criticism into Opportunity

The Art of Embracing Feedback: Transforming Criticism into Opportunity
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Taking Uneasy Feedback

It’s okay to not get appreciated and get beat down. No one makes it easy to the top or stays there too long if it isn’t for the enervating and tough feedback that brought them there in the first place.

People so often struggle with feedback and taking it well, it’s astonishing. Sure, you can be great at what you do but you can also be a fool at the very same time.. until you finally come to see it.

Let others lose their shit with you, and have the capacity to take it in and absorb and understand it. Not everyone who’s eligible to say the right feedback will give it to you in the most pleasant way.

Remember, if you’re not ready to listen, it’s not getting understood. No or limited understanding of someone else’s take on you (yes, even criticism that you feel is a 100% not accurate) is a learning opportunity missed. If not immediately, sooner or later so. What’s bigger; your sense of self esteem or your sense of self-enlightenment? Hint: it’s always going to be the latter.

I struggled quite a bit with taking unpleasant feedback well myself. It’s humiliating, degrading, seemingly unappreciated of your worth or hard work for that matter. The line of questioning to myself that helped me overcome these feelings of uneasiness and being unworthy was often something like this;

Does it make a difference?

  • If yes, then what difference does it make?
  • Is the difference positive for me and my growth?
  • Who is the person giving me this feedback?
  • Do they care so much to take time to bring me down?
  • Is the person more effective/diverse on the subject than myself?

Once you have answered the above questions with an open mind, meaning you have not allowed your tendency of negative thought process to intervene or affect your answers you would come to realize most people who are more experienced, tenured or have had more diverse experiences in life than you (at least on the subject) would give meaningful feedback most of the time and that realization also brings about a further reflection and starts to tell you; well you didn’t know that much about yourself.

Throughout my early years in management I was trained like an intern. When I say trained like an intern, I mean it. The feedback that came to me was shrewd, very direct, for some people even condescending. And as years went past and I declared myself as a more and more learned individual, to my surprise, the feedback became much more harsh. It was perpendicular to my style of thinking that my years of work and engagement with various roles and all the different hats that I wore, would make the feedback I got, well nicer? I would be appreciated more, looked at as a great or at least much more improved or enhanced leader by senior executives who trained me to get where I was. However, I came to realize by asking the same questions listed above that telling yourself that you’re doing well or you have done a lot or that you have developed significantly over the years as a leader or effective manager of your role is most of the time just food for your own ego and satisfaction. This made me think more about myself, my mindset around taking feedback and what I did after I got any feedback. Did I make the effort to really interpret and understand what was said? How did it translate into action items for me? Was it put to good use? Or did I ridicule the feedback or the person who said something to me and block my mind to even accept wholeheartedly at that time what was being communicated.

What we do to ourselves when we disallow our brain to function in a receptive manner is that it doesn’t let you see what you’re missing out on. We don’t readily accept and train our brain to take notes because the natural habit for the brain becomes to instantly bring you to a self defense position. This position of self defense starts showcasing reasons for why what you did or a certain action or decision you took was the right move and why you couldn’t have done anything different or an alternative wasn’t in question.

Feedback works well if you have trained your brain to be receptive to anything that’s being said to you. In training for that, there’s two things that are critical;
– Not responding immediately
– Not allowing (readily rejecting) any thoughts that come as defense

It’s not easy to get your brain trained in that mindset and it’s something that your brain gets better at as you do more of it.

Lastly and then I will wrap up, you may think or hear that how well you have taken feedback can be answered by the person who originally gave you the feedback. I am opposed to that way of measuring success on feedback implementations. Rather, I would believe results more when they are coming from people who were supposed to be impacted directly once the feedback was implemented.

I am a self-declared expert at taking feedback well. I still struggle with it and it often can take a mental toll if you don’t allow yourself the time to do the following things;

  • Interpret in different ways and interpret more to understand the underlying meaning beyond the words. Identify and gather relevant information that you may have missed or you may not have taken into account earlier and use this to create and refer to a list of lightbulbs that light up over time. This list will start identifying the most important areas that need improvement
  • Success is knowing what you learnt and based on that a redefined approach that’s better or slightly better than before. You’re not required to become someone else all of a sudden, but allow enough perspective that it gets you making different (hopefully right) moves and that’s a change
  • Know that good change isn’t urgent and at once. Best change comes when you fully understand and build insights that weren’t there before. It’s a process and no one feedback may result into sudden change that turns the world over for you
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