Feedback is information. Input. Data. For someone trained to value these things, it’s interesting how often I shut it out. How my fear – of being imperfect, of not being liked, of not being good enough – shuts me down, gets my defense mechanisms into high gear. How I become the monkey with her hands over her ears. I’m the girl who takes to running, moving away instead of standing still and really tuning in to what’s showing up.
As I reflect on the past month, I realize that I had the good fortune to receive some really great feedback. However, it’s taken me a month to open to it as a gift. I wasn’t at all prepared for the information. It conflicted with other inputs and my own self-perception. Instead of seeking deeper insight, I created stories that protected me. I noticed how I also found myself unable to embrace the positive affirmations I was receiving from others. I sunk into defeat. I became a victim. I was hurt. I became weak, and vulnerable. Not a response that left me feeling very good.
I found I had to keep standing myself back up. I leaned in to my family, my friends, and those closest to my work for affirmation. Their support, and just good quality time with myself looking deep inside, helped me move past the paralysis I felt.
Once I was standing back upright, I found myself wondering where the truth was? I went back for more information to understand the incoming data. (I had to go back through the whole defensive-acceptance process with the next layer of information, too!) What stories was I making up in my head to protect myself? Perhaps there was some truth that might be valuable to me? Maybe I could have behaved or responded differently? From this place of discovery, I saw that I was getting blocked by perceptions or judgments I had made about where the feedback was coming from.
Then I found myself journaling about my lessons learned…what I discovered about myself (yep, I’m vulnerable, I’m defensive, I have blind spots…) and what I learned about how I can work differently (better tune into the context and environment around me, be aware of my perceptions about someone so I see how it shapes incoming information, don’t underestimate the power that a single action can have on others’ opinions of me).
I also realized what made the feedback difficult for me to receive. The non-specific nature of it (a label), the lack of context (no acknowledgement of strengths or insights into the desired change), the distance of the information (feedback was second, perhaps third, hand, and long after the instigating incident). So I also gained insight into the kind of feedback giver I want to be: I want to provide insight and information that helps others be their best. I want to be specific and timely and put it into context. I want the data I share to create something better, to affirm the possibility in someone or something.
As I look at the process I moved through, there were three phases. If I judge feedback as ‘bad’ (I have not yet fully embraced all feedback as a gift but I’m working on it!), I have a need to start by celebrating what is good or what went right. I stand myself up straight. I shut down the defense mechanisms. From there I can move to challenging myself, exploring where the truth is, and asking what could I have done better. Finally, in the spirit of finding value in my experiences, I move to a place of discovering what can I take away to help me in the future.
I captured some of the questions that I found myself exploring. Maybe they’ll be valuable to you, too, as you take in the information, input, data you receive, whether from other people, the environment, your body, or all the other gifts for growth that are available to us.
- How do I feel about the information?
- What’s going on? What am I thinking? How am I feeling?
- What’s my reaction to receiving this input?
- Where’s the truth or gift in the data?
- How do I feel about the source of the feedback?
- What stories am I telling myself?
Evaluating behavior and outcomes
- How did I perform?
- Did I meet expectations?
- Did I achieve desired outcomes?
- What could I have done better?
- What was most valuable?
- What did I learn?
- How can I apply it in the future?
- What are others telling me?
- How are others perceiving me?
- How are others reacting to me?
- What are they doing or not doing in response to my actions?
- What’s happening around me?
- What’s the result of my choices, behaviors, and actions?
Considering the Circle of Influence:
- Who do I turn to for insights, feedback, advice?
- Whose guidance do I trust?
- Whose evaluation matters?
- Who helps me when I am down?
- Who appreciates and celebrates me?
- Why are these individuals important?
* The photo was taken in my backyard last spring – these purple columbine grow like weeds and the rabbits don’t eat them!