Feedback: Take it or Leave it? Here’s a Guide.

Feedback, Emotional Intelligence, Counseling

Everybody loves to share their thoughts on what and how you are doing.

How are you supposed to filter through all that feedback?

There are two ends of the spectrum here.

There is the end of the spectrum where you trust what other people say about you or what you should do over trusting your own inner knowing.

The other end of the spectrum is ignoring or minimizing any feedback.

Neither extreme is going to be ultimately helpful or lead to happiness.

The goal is to be able to take in feedback and filter it through your inner knowing to see what could be helpful to you and what is actually more about someone else than you.

Let’s face it, we can’t see 360 degrees around ourselves and we all have blind spots.

Sometimes the most important feedback can come from unexpected sources.  Sometimes the feedback itself doesn’t “sound good”, but it is actually really helpful once you get past your initial feelings about it.

A series of questions to go through when considering feedback:

ONE: Is this a fair statement?

Ok, people are not usually trained in giving feedback.  If they are hurt or concerned, they might have made a categorical statement like “you’re a jerk”.  Well, people are complicated, so you can’t boil someone down to one thing.

So, let’s put it into perspective even if your loved one might have used different phrasing:  do you sometimes act like a jerk?  (Big difference between being one and acting like one).

You know what?  Sometimes I act like a jerk.  Usually under circumstances where I am overwhelmed.

TWO:  Have I ever gotten feedback like this before?

If you are repeatedly getting the same feedback, it is good to take a closer look at this.

Maybe you don’t intend to come off a certain way.  But you do.

So, under what conditions are you doing that?  Is there anything you need to shift?

If you need help looking at this, go to a trusted friend and see if they can give you any specific examples.  Try not to be defensive.  You are doing this to grow.

THREE:  What might be about the person giving the feedback (their story or worldview, any dogs they have in the fight)?

Is there anything about this person’s feedback that is more about them than it is about you?

I remember when I was opening a private practice and a colleague was telling me about all these safety issues I needed to be concerned about.  I totally took that on board.  When I talked to a couple of other people, I realized that this person’s advice about safety issues was specific to them.  She brought up good points, but I maybe did not need to go to the extent she was recommending.

FOUR:  Is there any feedback in here that can help me get closer to showing up in the world more aligned with how I want to be as a person?

Let’s say you want to be a person that others can come to for the truth.  You get feedback that you are mean when you are just trying to be honest.

Instead of dismissing that feedback, you can investigate a little:  Is it actually important to me for people to receive my honest feedback?

If you decide it is important, it would be good to ask yourself if there is anything in the way of your honest reflections being received.  Are you personalizing it (i.e. saying “you’re a jerk” vs “you’re acting like a jerk”) or using a harsh tone?  Are you belittling or being condescending in your tone?  Is your feedback more often unsolicited?  Do you maybe want to start asking if someone wants feedback before you offer it, that way they are more receptive and ready for it?

If you are not sure, ask an honest friend or a therapist.

Just because someone says something that you would hate to believe about yourself, don’t throw it away.

Check to see if it could hold a valuable insight.

If you are having a tough time taking it on board, try this:

See if there could have been a valid reason for you acting the way someone is saying you act.  Meaning, does that way of being have a noble intention?

For example, I got the same piece of feedback from two important people within the same week:  “you care too much about what people think”.  Ugh.  I never wanted to be that person.

Because it was said to me twice, I decided to take a look.  Yes, my mother was a volatile human being when I was a kid.  I had to care what she thought.  Caring about what she thought made it so it was less likely a bomb would go off.  I just didn’t know I was continuing to be that way so much later in life when I didn’t need that strategy anymore.

By seeing the noble intention behind being that way, I was able to take in the feedback and it actually made a difference in my life.

If you take everyone’s opinion on board and it bothers you, try this:

Brene Brown says that she has a short list of people she trusts enough to give her honest feedback.  She says that list is on a 1 inch x 1 inch square of paper.  That’s a short list!  Think of the people you trust in your life and just stick to their feedback, leave the rest.

The benefit of being open is that you are more approachable and feedback is vital to growth, so you will have the ability to get further faster.

The benefit of being discerning is that you will not waste your energy on information that is not FOR you.

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