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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.

Senior Manager with Pinnacle Project Partners and over the last 15 years have worked as a Project / Programme Manager, primarily within the Financial Services Sector here in Ireland, but also with clients in the UK, Holland, the US and New Zealand. I have worked on a number of significant large scale projects – ranging from process improvement & automation initiatives, to more traditional solution design & implementation projects. PMP™ certified and holder of a MBA (First Class Honours) from UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. Looking for outlet to share idea's / thoughts - particularly in the leadership space – and continue learning!

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  • Good post Kelvin. This is very related to the “social media” fears that most businesses have. The slightest idea about losing control and all of a sudden…”viewing that feedback” terrifies many companies. I guest they should better go through some of your “adaptive techniques” before jumping into social platforms? 🙂

  • Kelvin, another super post! I might even extend your points to our abilities to both giving and receiving feedback. My experience of providing training/workshops etc has demonstrated to me that criticism is sometimes harder to come by :). I find that I often have to push people a little to get them to verbalise where I as a trainer can improve. In other words, we appear to be much more comfortable in giving positive feedback and less so giving what might be perceived as negative feedback. I wonder if our ability to provide feedback simply mirrors our ability to take feedback? Looking forward to the next post, as I agree that the way in which we deliver feedback is often as important as the feedback itself. By the way, thanks so much for continuing the dialogue and may you have a healthy and wealthy 2010. Warm regards, Niall

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