“I hate being critiqued!” said a relative of mine. “I really hate it. I enjoy doing this; why do I care what other people think about how good I am at it? I just want to do my thing and enjoy it,”. It was eye-opening to me to hear this, as I never thought anyone would fail to see the value in seeking feedback.
I never stop critiquing myself. Not in a negative, brow-beating sort of way, but with the goal of being self-aware and improving my outlook and abilities on a regular basis. Feedback, both internal and external, is my way of developing this self-awareness.
Despite this, I regularly come across people (like my relative), who find feedback uncomfortable. They don’t like to hear that they’re doing something wrong; it’s far nicer to be praised.
I’m not all-knowing. That\’s why I seek feedback.
Sure, I like to think I’m a smart guy. I read a lot, I write a lot and I try to meet and learn from as many people as I can. But I don’t pretend I’m an expert in 95% of the concepts and disciplines I encounter on a day-to-day basis. Wherever I see my skills or understanding are lacking, I seek out expert advice and support to supplement my knowledge, helping me to gain a quality outcome despite my shortcomings.
Feedback, if given from someone more experienced than myself (or even with different experience) is one of the most valuable things I can be given. I might not agree with it, but by listening and trying to learn from it, I enhance my own understanding and skills the next time I approach a similar situation.
I remember one of my mentors saying to me ‘measure twice, cut once’ repeatedly when I worked for them. I was so eager to please, I regularly dived head-first into jobs, making a few small mistakes which could easily have been avoided if I’d taken the time to plan. This mentor taught me that enthusiasm and effort alone weren’t enough – I had to be smart about the way I worked as the result was what really counted.
Seek out the experts and listen to them as part of seeking feedback.
By finding out who knows more than you (often a longer list of people than you might like to admit), you can start to seek reliable opinions on how to work smarter and get that all-important outcome. There’s an oft-quoted observation that we have ‘two ears and one mouth; use them in that proportion’ and I’m a huge believer in employing this in day-to-day life. By listening carefully to the people I meet, I can identify who the subject experts are, who has the experience I don’t and who I should be seeking feedback from.
It’s also important to remember that just because you only hear something from one person, it doesn’t mean they’re wrong.
Based on a lifetime of experience, it’s often easy to presume that if only one person mentions something is wrong, that it can’t be that obvious. I like to flip this view on its head; if one person brings a complaint to me, perhaps they’re the only one with the time to bring it to me – maybe lots more people have noticed the same issue.
One of the huge mistakes people make when they hear feedback is believing that if only one person raises an issue, maybe it was a one-off ‘bad experience’. Even if that were true, why should that feedback be discounted? If it can make you a better person, who cares whether you’ve heard it from 1 person, or 1000?
Learn from everyone, especially those who are blunt.
Have you ever heard people tell you not to listen to people who are overly critical of you because you can’t make everyone happy? I’m a big believer in the power of positive thinking, but I’m well aware that ignoring detractors creates a risk of being blinded to my flaws. Rather than ignore anyone that doesn’t sing my unadulterated praise, I feed it through a filter, trying to pick out the useful nuggets of information that could help me to improve and became a better person.
In my opinion, I don’t need other people to tell me what I’ve done well. Sure, it’s nice to hear, but fixing my faults is far more valuable. Most people are reticent to provide feedback; they fear direct confrontation, leaving me to work through subtle signs and hints trying to figure out how to improve. The most valuable feedback is often that which is provided regularly and freely – I can access and understand it far more effectively and rarely take it as an insult!
I want every person reading this blog to go out tomorrow and make a list of the feedback they get. Put aside any assumption that feedback and criticism are the same things. Discard your ego and start looking for opportunities to learn and grow as a person. Rather than running away from feedback, seek it out, capture and analyse it. Find the individuals around you who are subject experts. Listen to what they have to say and rather than presuming you know everything, presume you know nothing. Learn to see the value in seeking feedback.