Feedback is an essential part of personal and professional growth. It allows us to better understand the perception others have of us and gauge our performance. It can be the ray of light we need to reveal a personal blind-spot or the wake up call that saves our career. To add, those who actively seek feedback have greater job satisfaction, stronger performance reviews and adjust to new roles much quicker than those who don’t.
Considering that feedback can be so helpful to development, why is it so hard to receive?
The workplace is filled with feedback, whether we ask for it or not, so we should be experts at receiving it, right? Not quite. Our response to feedback has more to do with self-awareness and self-control than the frequency or manner in which it was delivered.
Ultimately the receiver is “in-charge” of being productive with the feedback after it’s provided.
The receiver is responsible for controlling their emotional and physical responses to feedback. Now, please don’t misunderstand. I am not saying the feedback giver should say whatever, however, they want to you. But in the workplace, your success will be connected to how you manage feedback.
Which makes it critical to learn how you process it. Below are insights to give you greater self-awareness and improve how you receive feedback.
Many of us have a “reserved” ego, in the workplace at least, while others can’t seem to contain theirs no matter where they are. Ego is our sense of self-worth. Our internal measure of “stature” that can be brandished externally. There is a dose of ego in every thought, interpretation, emotion, and reaction. It is a natural part of every human-being.
Our ego may yearn to feel special, receive gratification, and in some cases be superior. When ego slightly senses that your esteem is in jeopardy, it could be a like wolf protecting the pack. No matter how well tamed your ego is, receiving feedback arouses something in you.
It is ego’s job to protect the value we place on ourselves.
In the process of protecting, ego can distort information or a situation that doesn’t align with what we believe to be true. To avoid this, you need to be aware of your triggers. There are three types of feedback triggers that can send your ego into a frenzy:
Truth – The truth trigger occurs when we receive feedback we believe is inaccurate. This puts us at war with our ego. We’re battling to decipher the feedback and to digest the truth. Failing to recognize this trigger can lead to tunnel vision – ignoring all other feedback until the ‘wrong’ is made right.
Relationship – The relationship trigger occurs when the feedback giver does not have established credibility or trust with you. The feelings you have about the giver can hinder or help how you process the feedback.
Identity – The identity trigger occurs when the feedback challenges your self-esteem. The honor of your work and respect for your contributions may feel under attack. And while the integrity of your character may not be in question, it certainly feels at risk. All of which can cause you to think less of yourself or become defensive.
Try tracking these triggers over your next handful of feedback discussions. Write down which trigger(s) you experienced and what specifically caused them. The awareness alone can help you regulate your feelings when triggered and manage your responses.
State of Delusion
According to Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, a world-renowned leadership coach and best-selling author, he has surveyed over 50,000 professionals who rated themselves compared to their peers. The results show that 70% of respondents think they are in the Top 10% of their peer group. 82% believe they are in the Top 20% and 98.5% place themselves in the Top Half.
This strongly implies that professionals tend to think higher of themselves relative to their peers. Dr. Goldsmith noted that a primary factor that contributes to this “delusion” derives from “positive reinforcement from our past successes” and believing that “criticism just doesn’t apply to us because we’re successful the way we are.”
Thinking this way will make it difficult for you to process constructive feedback and it can be a major pitfall. There are 3 things you can practice to avoid the state of delusion with receiving feedback:
- Have a “nose” for continuous improvement and learning. Make the presumption that there is room to improve and learn. While you may recognize that your performance is above par, strive for mastery or new skills.
- Adopt a “service-first” mindset. Diligently seek to support others so they meet their goals. Acting in this way will help you view your talent, skill, and overall performance as a tool for uplifting others and not yourself.
- Find a “push partner” to keep you honest. This is someone who you can trust, who performs better than you in one or more areas, and who can provide an authentic contrast to your performance. Finding this healthy partner can help you humbly acknowledge others perspective.
Feedback can be much easier to embrace when you know yourself. Decide that feedback is just one of many resources to help you serve others, and it will serve you.