What is the shortest word in the English language that contains the letters: abcdef?
In a number of the recent posts and comments on authenticity, feedback and in particular our fear of feedback has featured heavily. Why are we so afraid of feedback? What happens if these fears are left unaddressed? And if we agree that feedback is a good thing, how can we get over our fears?
I think there is no question that a lot of us are fearful (if even only slightly) of feedback. Those on the receiving end worry they’ll hear nothing but criticism or are unable to properly assimilate the feedback – this often leads to negative or destructive behaviours, for example:
- Procrastination: I’ll talk to them about it next week – as the quote goes nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task
- Denial: Do you really believe that the oft discussed promotion is really going to happen? Or are you simply in denial?
- Jealousy: Do you feel a slight pang when a boss openly praises another colleague? Comparing ourselves with others is normal unless it is based on envy or suspicion.
- Self-sabotage: You can’t do that! That’s way too difficult! If you try, you’ll probably just fail anyway – this little voice is in many ways the most insidious, as it can create a self fulfilling prophecy and lead to a vicious cycle. Another way this can manifest itself is sniping at your boss behind their back because of some perceived slight or remark – ultimately this can only result is more damage for you than them.
But also those the giving the feedback are often concerned or apprehensive about the process – they worry that communicating the slightest criticism will lead to anger, heated arguments, acting out or withdrawal by those on the receiving end.
Be honest, does any of this sound familiar?
However if we let these ‘imagined’ concerns or fears go unchecked and opt to live in a reality where we’d prefer to guess what others think rather that actually find out – it offers us little insight into how our performance is viewed by others? And how potentially they see that our performance can be improved?
In order to take feedback onboard, it generally involves change of some description – this makes it less of a technical problem (applying the knowledge/skillset we already have) and more of an adaptive challenge (requires learning). So perhaps some of adaptive approaches offer us a means to better manage our response to feedback and help introduce change.
In the next post I’ll look at some of the adaptive techniques and see how they can be applied to help view and react to feedback in a positive manner.