For many people, giving and receiving feedback is not enjoyable at all. Feedback can be awkward and fraught with miscommunication. Just thinking about it causes the heart to pump a little faster, and perhaps even some anxiety to set in.
Feedback, however, is the breakfast of champions.
Of all things you could do today to be a better human being, asking for feedback is the number one catalyst for positive change in your life.
Mastering the art of giving and receiving feedback is a core life skill. Unfortunately it’s not one they teach you at school. Far too many people undervalue it. They don’t ask for it frequently, and they certainly don’t give it to others. Afterall, it’s awkward right?
It doesn’t have to be.
When done with respect, feedback leaves both parties feeling grateful and more connected. Feedback is actually a bonding experience that strengthens the relationship by showing care for each other.
We’ve developed simple mindsets and techniques for mastering the art of giving feedback:
THINK LIKE A SURGEON
Surgeons don’t pick up a scalpel and start slashing around. They are precise. They see something that needs mending, focus in on that specific area and delicately get to work.
Giving feedback is the same. You can’t start slashing around with people’s emotions. You can’t use loose language. You have to be extremely careful because the other person may be sensitive and the smallest comment could inflame the conversation. Instead, using precise language and focusing in on one small specific area works far better. You will find the surgeon mindset makes a big difference to a quality conversation.
FOCUS ON THE PROBLEM, NOT THE SOLUTION
A common mistake when giving feedback is to focus on the solution, not the problem. For example, people often say ‘you should do it xyz way next time.’ This leaves the person wondering, ‘Ok, but why?’
Just offering a solution doesn’t help the learning process. Spending time exploring the problem is where the learning happens.
Instead, be more specific and say ‘When you did it abc way, from my perspective, xyz happened.’
This approach is a lot more interesting and sparks a much more productive conversation.
What about receiving feedback? Just as there is an art to giving it, there is an art to receiving it.
ASK A LOT OF QUESTIONS
When someone gives you feedback, your gut instinct will be to defend your actions and justify your behaviour. Avoid doing this. Instead, replace defensive comments with questions. Try hard to understand what they’re really saying. Explore the feedback and go deep. Ask at least 10 questions. Ask for examples if they aren’t being very specific. Ask what you can learn, what you can do differently and how it impacts people around you. All questions are good questions.
Feedback is a gift. Treat it that way. This may be hard to do, especially if the feedback has been tough to receive, but thank the person and show your gratitude. Drop them a note afterwards to say you’ve reflected on it and are immensely grateful. They will appreciate the sentiment and it will connect you even more. Always remember that feedback is like eating your vegetables: it may not taste great but you know it’s good for you.