As humans, we want and need feedback…suggestions…criticism – call it whatever you want, we ask for it continually. We crave it yet we cringe or run away when we receive it. We are dying to know what people think of us, our work, our outfit, our hairstyle…you name it, we want to know what people think. But the moment that feedback comes, we often want to curl up in a ball and die because it isn’t exactly what we were hoping for, or worse yet, it is downright mean. And yet we only grow as people if we face the feedback for what it is. Such a strange relationship we have with feedback. So convoluted. So confusing. So frustrating.
Here’s a recent personal example to further illustrate my point: I asked for feedback on short workshop I recently did and I received quite a bit of feedback from the group of people with whom I worked to put together the event (as I had hoped I would – since we all had worked to put it together I was anxious to hear their thoughts on the final product, delivery, etc.). Most of the feedback was the typical niceties (good job, I think it went well, etc.). Some people mentioned the sound issues we had (while completely valid and quite frustrating, that was unfortunately beyond our immediate control…but helpful feedback nonetheless). But there one piece of feedback that had an edge to it. It seemed to be a list of complaints with no acknowledgement for the work that went into it. It was as if there was nothing good about the whole event. I wanted to run from that feedback when it came through in my email. It came across such that it triggered that oh so familiar ego voice in my head which began questioning if I was good enough, if I knew what I was doing, etc.. It was the kind of thing that allowed the ego mind go to town. And unfortunately I don’t know the person who delivered the feedback well enough to know their true intention, but nevertheless that email got my mind rolling down a dangerous and unhealthy path.
And on some level I also found myself feeling some anger about it. Who was this person to do nothing but complain. They didn’t have to make all the contacts to set all this up. They didn’t have to deal with old equipment that didn’t work right. They hadn’t spent hours preparing and practicing. My mind got stuck cycling between the anger and insecurity I was feeling after reading that email. I had to force myself to close my email and walk away for a few hours. Okay…until the next day actually. I needed to let it go, to give myself time to put it into perspective. So I went home and meditated on it a bit (after my mind seemed to fixate on it for a while though). I needed to distance myself from the content, reflect on what were valid concerns (like the sound issues), what was perhaps an issue of someone not reading previous emails and then complaining that they didn’t know something, and what were areas where we truly could work on and improve. That time away to reflect, rather than immediately responding to the email, was essential I believe so I could respond in a more loving way. I needed to do that so I could loving accept the person and the feedback and move forward in a more positive way.
And now, after processing it, I realized one additional thing – I really just want people to say whatever they have to say with a little love. I would prefer they land the plane softly. Otherwise it feels like people assume we intentionally screwed something up, like we went out of my way to do something they didn’t like – which of course is not usually the intention or case. In reality I believe it’s a communication thing, which is a good thing because that is something that’s fixable moving forward. It is a learning moment. But I also realize my desire for people to say it a bit more softly is likely a pipe dream and that in reality I need to hone my skills in the area of personal development so that when I do receive difficult feedback it doesn’t make me want to run and hide. Perhaps by modeling that which I wish to see others do I will influence some portion of the population to be more gentle and loving with their words.
And so to close today’s blog, I offer a few words of encouragement to those giving feedback – don’t operate from a viewpoint that someone intentionally did it “wrong”, but instead offer suggestions from the heart with the intention that everyone benefits. And to those receiving the feedback – don’t respond to difficult feedback right away, rather give yourself time to process it properly and find a way to respond (if a response is even necessary) that is productive and of service to all involved.