Make Feedback Less Final

January 7, 2016 - 6 minute read - Posted by

Something I’ve always struggled with is how and when to say no to feedback versus when to act on it. Feedback is that awkward thing in the room often looked at from a burden standpoint. Why? It’s demoralizing to have someone burn your hard work in a list of complaints of how they would like to see/have done it differently if they were you.

There’s this aura of finality that is brought to reading feedback. “I have to respond or incorporate this or it’ll look like I’m not listening/a team player.” The aura of finality can kill an otherwise awesome opportunity to learn about how to improve your work.

So let’s tackle a few ways to make feedback less like the dreaded dinner party fruitcake and more like a delicious banana split you just can’t get enough of.

Recall that awkward burn feeling when you’ve forgot the sunscreen on a hot day? If you feel yourself getting hot, check yourself.

Words convey your emotions more than you probably think. It’s important to put a barrier between emotional and constructive responses. My personal favourite calming tool is to visualize my childhood house growing up. I recite the streets adjacent to where I lived. It is a complete mental distraction that allows me to clear my head before jumping back into the feedback.

The more you practice the art of separating emotions from constructive responses, the more you’ll likely approach feedback from a calm place automatically. (Unfortunately, this has no influence on remembering to put on sunscreen when going to the beach.)

Approach feedback like discovering there’s one more scoop of ice-cream in the freezer.

Surprise discoveries are awesome. Feedback can be too.

It’s super easy to always assume feedback received is going to critic something you did. Feedback can be given when you’ve done a great job as well! If you walk into a situation with a “oh god, not again” mindset, no matter what it says you’ll find a pessimistic something in the message you’ve received.

Every bit of feedback is one more scope of ice cream.

You are the owner of your own actions, so own up to your feelings.

When receiving feedback, it’s ultimately up to you to decide how it gets handled. The giver is carving time out of their day to try help, not attack who you are. Try to not attack back. One strategy to make feedback less final is to work through the following framework: facts, feels, and solutions.

  • Facts – what are the cold hard facts in this situation?

These statements are things that happened with no twist of emotions, such as: “the presentation happened on Tuesday, I hadn’t got a good night sleep the night before, Joe was a co-presenter, I spent 3 hours prepping, etc.”

Factual statements strip beliefs, emotions, and perspectives and are just statements of events that occurred.

  • Feels – how do these facts make me feel?

Feel statements touch on your own interpretation of what happened and how you felt before receiving feedback as well as after. This could be something like, “I felt angry when you told me I wasn’t prepared because I blanked on slide 3. I was nervous, it was my first time presenting to a CEO. I believe could have done a better job introducing myself, they had a lot of questions at the end.”

Feel statements focus on defining beliefs, emotions, contexts and situations. They are interpretations from your own perspective.

  • Solutions – what am I going to propose for next time to avoid the same situation/any potential negative feels. 

Proposing solutions for next time is the most critical step. It’s important to approach feedback and situations with a plan for how to avoid the same situation next time. Coming up with your own solutions for avoiding negative feelings also places emphasis on positive outcomes, not just the emotions you felt in step 2.

At the end of the day, you own the feedback. Everyone has an opinion, but not every opinion is in the betterment of the project or end goal. Remembering that feedback is merely one opinion is really important. It’s equally as important to convey the end goal. This ensures no matter who is giving or receiving feedback, the betterment of the goal is at the core of next steps.

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