Is that the best you can do?
I wrote a few days ago about giving difficult feedback. However, today, I want to write about receiving difficult feedback. Are you doing the best that you can do?
From a young age, we are driven to achieve. At school, we want to run faster, jump higher and achieve better grades in our exams. When we grow up we compete to gain more money and achieve status. However, we don't like to receive criticism and often when we hear something critical, the barriers go up in defence. Even for those who say that they are open to feedback, it can still be hard when it hits.
Often in life, we artificially ask for feedback. Imagine the stereotyped wife asking her husband if she looks good tonight. She doesn't expect a negative answer. She wants to hear something positive. We are all like that in the workplace too. When we ask for feedback, we want our colleagues to say we are doing a great job. This is usually the problem with 360 feedback systems that many companies have because we ask for feedback from those who we know will be positive.
So when we do receive some critical feedback, we stick our fingers in our ears and try to not hear it. Our fragile egos feel threatened! It is ironic that in such situations the worst of our personality traits are brought out. Our weak character and our insecurities are displayed.
The extent of self-preservation through hiding from the truth can be seen in everyday life situations where people shy away from going to the doctors. They prefer to live in ignorance rather than having to face the difficult truth. This sometimes ends really badly.
If we want to develop, we need to overcome these insecurities and open ourselves up to feedback. It is not comfortable, but if we do not take ourselves out of our comfort zone then we will never grow.
If you always do what you always did you will always get what you always got
So how do we receive feedback?
Well, first of all, open yourself up to feedback. We tend to "shoot the messenger" when they were only trying to help. We do the same thing at school when we get bad grades, it must have been a bad teacher - not us.
Secondly, really try to listen and understand the feedback. Don't let yourself go into immediate denial and blame. Rather, understand the perspective being put forward and ask yourself - what could I have done differently to avoid people having that perspective?
Seek first to understand, then to be understood
Once you have listened, dig deep. Make sure that the feedback is as precise as possible. It will make it easier to change your behaviours if there are some specific examples that you can address. Generalised statements are not going to help you.
Detach the feedback from a criticism of the effort you are putting in or the results you are attaining. You know you are putting the effort in (well I hope you are) and when we are criticised we naturally think - "but I tried so hard!". It isn't always enough to try.
It is also not just about results. You may well be achieving yet you may be causing other problems in the process. You need to grow and to grow, you need to take yourself out of your comfort zone and make yourself a little bit vulnerable.
Finally, there is one more psychological trick you can use. Sometimes in life when we do something that is really horrible or difficult, if we convince ourselves that we really want to do it then we can feel good about it. People doing things for charity are a good example of this. They often do hard/difficult work that no one would want to do but they do it happily because they have convinced themselves that they really want to do it.
So if you want to accept difficult and critical feedback then…..want the feedback!