Get and Give with Grace

Right after I drafted this newsletter about feedback, one of my professional colleagues, Michael Bungay Stanier, was kind enough to offer some.

He said, in effect, “I know you haven’t yet moved into your office, but that interim thing you have going doesn’t work. It is off-brand.”

This feedback was relatively easy to hear because I agreed with him, and because I know that he genuinely cares, and I am consciously working on getting better at receiving feedback, but–––––

What if you don’t agree with the feedback you receive?

We all receive feedback/criticism that doesn’t ring true for us. We may even vehemently disagree. Manal Ibrahim on our LinkedIn Live said regarding feedback, “You don’t have to agree, but you need to consider.” Feedback is another person’s opinion. If you’re willing to consider it, you may find it extremely helpful and use it for positive change – or you can choose to ignore it.

Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor offers the following advice when receiving feedback you don’t agree with:

  • Signal your openness to criticism by finding something on which you do agree.
  • Repeat back what you heard to ensure you understood correctly.
  • Tell your critic you want to think about their feedback and schedule a time to circle back. Follow through.
  • If you disagree, articulate why. If you can’t change [or choose not to], a thoughtful explanation will show appreciation to the person who is offering feedback. IMPORTANT—don’t disagree in a way that challenges their view of themselves, making your response an attack on their identity.
  • They may agree with you or not. They may point out something in your response that should lead you to reconsider.

Whose feedback should you listen to?

Most feedback has some value, but the most valuable comes from people who care about you, whether you are well acquainted or not. Ask yourself, are you a person or an object to them?

I’ve received tough feedback in the last few weeks around my biases, but I could hear it because I knew the people delivering it wanted to help, not hurt me. The most trustworthy feedback often comes from your children or employees. Their success depends on yours. They want you to succeed. That’s a formula for feedback you can trust.

How do you get better at receiving feedback?

Ask for it. Like a muscle make deliberate efforts to strengthen it. Fred Kofman suggests we ask the question, “What can I start or stop doing to make it easier to work [live, visit, volunteer, relax] with me?” Wait quietly. I’ve learned a lot about the power of silence here.

When the silence is broken, respond with grace. Whether you agree with the feedback or not.

How can you improve at giving feedback?

A good way to start is by giving positive feedback often (practice). Spend as much time learning to express what others do well as you’re tempted to spend explaining what they do wrong. Reinforcing someone’s strengths raises their awareness of them. When you learn to give sincere, specific praise, giving sincere, specific criticism gets easier. Just don’t give praise and criticism at the same time or you dilute the effectiveness of both.

If you want some guidance, listen to our past podcast episode with Dr. Bob Nelson.

My commitment this week is to give positive feedback to three different people. How about you? Will you make the same commitment?

I love what Gretchen Rubin said on this topic, “People who are critical are often perceived as more discerning. We tend to think that someone who criticizes us is smarter than we are. Although enthusiasm seems easy and undiscriminating, it’s much harder to do. It’s riskier. Enthusiasm then is a form of social courage. Giving positive reviews requires humility.”

Our podcast is with Liz O’Donnell, sharing her experience as a lead parent, and also caring for her aging parents. In many instances we could substitute ‘dealing with COVID-19’ for ‘caring for my parents’. The experience is not dissimilar. If you find her helpful, let her know. Buy her book, leave an Amazon reviewleave a podcast review, email her.

My best,

P.S. Once you’ve given a quick positive feedback send us a message “I am learning to give feedback,” and you’ll be eligible for one of three copies of Liz’s book Working Daughter.

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