Receiving feedback, and using our filters to decipher what we receive.

Receiving feedback is tough.

I tend to go on defense or avoid the toughest conversations out of fear of uncomfortable feedback. Ego is tied to whatever performance review, test score, comment, or advice comes my way. There are tricks to overcoming this reaction.

I've learned to understand the power of receiving feedback well. That is what I can control. Thanks for the Feedback is a deep dive and this blog post from Wes Kao a shallow dive into how to look at feedback of all sorts.

We don't need to try to learn how to give good feedback. We need, as both sources state and I agree with, to learn how to receive feedback. Open dialogue will benefit our personal and professional relationships. Dialogue comes about through honesty. Without fear of retaliation. Without defensiveness. Without regret.

We can learn to see feedback as a gift, even when it rips at the soul of who we are.

Two of the many takeaways that resonate with me regarding feedback are learning to understand the types of feedback and the importance of labels.

Types of Feedback and Cross-Transactions

Here’s a simple example to communicate cross-transactions: as a child, I draw a scraggly house and my dad then shows me how to draw it better, but I was looking for some appreciation and praise. I’m crushed.

The types of feedback include appreciation, coaching, and evaluation. Misunderstandings arise when the receiver expects one thing but is given another. You might be looking for coaching and how to improve, but your boss or friend offers appreciation in the form of a slap on the back and a "good job". When we cross the lines of expectations and responses, we can feel invisible and misunderstood and take to heart the feedback that was offered.

We need to get aligned by asking:

"What is my purpose in giving/receiving this feedback?"

And to follow-up: is it the right purpose from both my and the other party's points of view?

Ask these simple questions to yourself or out loud to be sure everyone is on the same page and the feedback can be understood by giver and receiver.

Avoid Labels

These are the nicely packaged ideas that carry lots of personal interpretation and weight — "act your age," "be more proactive," or "be more assertive." These labels offer a general view of feedback that someone might be trying to offer; however, the label needs support because a label by itself is dangerous.

One example from the book is the label "Be more confident."

What might be heard: "Give the impression that you know things even if you don't."

What was meant: "Have the confidence to say you don't know when you don't know."

The effect of labels happens across all feedback types. So what's the solution?

You could avoid all labels.

Another fix is to bring the label into context. First, describe the past — the data and interpretations that gave rise to the label. Second, describe where the feedback/label is going — what behavior change could come about.

Receiving feedback well is a skill. And it's learnable. Two ways to start are to be upfront with expectations in feedback conversations and to dig into the desired change(s) behind labels.