Life is all about feedback. Whether it’s from a friend, a stranger, or a machine. Without honest feedback, it’s hard to actually grow. Success is relative to the amount of honest, uncomfortable feedback we can handle. Feedback isn’t always a lecture from a friend. It can come in the form of spell check or your lap time for a one mile run.
When it comes to feedback however, our biggest problem is dealing with all the noise. The second biggest problem is how well we understand the feedback. Sometimes we don’t have enough feedback to reasonably do anything with it.
There are a lot of people who are very sensitive to feedback and actually get offended from it. This is usually do to the “noise” associated with modern language. A lot of people interpret feedback outside of the words in context. For example, if I tell a friend of mine that their internet surfer between bouts of work isn’t a good idea, they won’t just think of the “why” and ask me to explain my point further. People will read into and look for intent. “Does he think I’m not discipline?” or “Who does he think he is talking down to me?” These type of assumptions are “noise” that get in the way of the actual message. In a sense, it’s only clutter. Thinking about the intentions doesn’t matter. What does is taking the message literally and looking into it further.
Feedback can sometimes be given in an insulting way, but the trick is to just take whatever is relevant from it and weed through the empty, insulting parts. Sometimes feedback isn’t relayed in an insulting way, but the person receiving takes it personally.
While there is an art to communicating feedback, we can’t expect everyone to learn it for our sake, if we’re sensitive to it. The best thing we can do is to remind ourselves that emotional decisions are wrong decisions and if we process this feedback emotionally, we will always lose.
I can sit here all day and point out the flaws of trying to read into feedback or criticism, but at the end of the day, if we’re giving the feedback we must remember that it’s our responsibility to make our message clear. When we communicate and the other person doesn’t understand us, we have to accept the fact that we did a poor job at communicating. We can’t get mad at the other person or call them stupid for not understanding.
Most people can only communicate from their point of view. This brings us to our other problem with feedback. This time with us on the receiving end. For example, imagine cooking and egg and burning it. The only feedback you get from a friend is “that’s not how you cook an egg, you burned it!”. Unfortunately, you can’t do anything with that kind of feedback. Even feedback like “you cooked it for too long” isn’t as helpful. The person giving the feedback needs to understand your level of cooking BEFORE they give you feedback. If they just say “cook it less” without them knowing if you know what heat you should be cooking it on, what cues in the eggs development you should be looking for or the oil in use, then it’s not effective feedback either.
Effective feedback is knowing where the other person is at when giving and knowing where the other person is coming from when receiving.