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Get Feedback, Get Better!

Nobody likes it ...

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Be honest, do you like getting feedback? I know I don't. I know I need it as well, but it doesn't mean I have to like it ...

When you get feedback, you get better ... we may not like it, but it's really, really useful!

When you get feedback, you get better ... we may not like it, but it's really, really useful!

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As a trainer in the corporate world, I give out feedback forms at the end of every course. Of course, I always have butterflies in my stomach when I go to read them. They are nearly always totally positive, but I find myself focusing on the one that ticked 'good' rather than excellent; it's human nature, after all.

We have to remember that ultimately, we are animals, and all of us has a natural negativity bias; our brains are hardwired to react to negative stimuli!

This is because initially, it was essential to our survival, so sensing an attack would trigger our natural impulse to 'fight or flight', which means we react much quicker and instinctively to what we perceive are dangerous situations.

It also means we are likely to remember negative experiences more than the positive ones because to survive, our brains believe we need to remember what happened and avoid similar situations in the future.

Of course, our brains don't know the difference between real danger and critical feedback! It is still perceived as an attack, and even though it isn't a real danger, it can signal a fear of exclusion.

When we were part of hunter-gatherer societies, we were totally dependant on the group for survival, and so constructive feedback in the modern world can trigger a fear that we will be not be accepted by others.

You can read more about negativity bias and our sense of exclusion by looking up psychologist Peter Gray and management professor Neal Ashkanasy; they have both done extensive research into the subject.

So, it is no wonder that receiving feedback is a stressful experience, but like anything we are fearful of, the more we do it, the more we become comfortable and confident especially if we look for the positives and how we grow from each experience.

This is why it is so important to reflect on these experiences and ask ourselves questions about what we have learned and how we develop and change ready for next time.

You need to get comfortable asking for (and receiving) feedback as it will unlock your blind spots revealing strengths you might not have known you had. It's helpful to receive suggestions about how you can be better mastering your human skills as it means you can go for any job and not only demonstrate the experience, and show your capability to do it, but stand out as the best communicator or the most emotionally intelligent.

People who go out and seek constructive feedback have been proven to adapt more quickly to new roles, are higher performers and seen as more committed to their work! Be proactive and ask for feedback. It's far easier to take when you have initiated it, and you are in control in terms of what you want to receive and from whom you wish to receive it.

Take a look at my advice below on how to make the most of asking for feedback:

  1. Get clear on what you're looking for

    What sort of feedback do you want? Is it more about the positives or the development areas? Do you want feedback overall, or on a specific skill or project? That way you can ask for the feedback in the right form so you get what you need and there are no surprises.

  2. Don't put it off

    If its feedback on a specific thing like your last presentation, for example, ask for it sooner rather than later. Keep it informal and relaxed, and you can also give them direction on the key areas you are looking for, so it comes in easier and in more manageable chunks. An example could be "how well do you feel I engaged with the audience?"

  3. Think about questions to ask

    Don't ask "have you got any feedback for me?". First of all, it's a closed question, so the chances are you will get a resounding "No!". It's often harder to give feedback that it is to take it so ask instead something like, "What one thing I can improve on?" or, "what do you think I could have done differently?" These type of questions are very open and make it clear this is about improvement and help, not negative criticism.

  4. Ask for examples

    Once you have been given feedback, dig down more for specifics. An example would be, "You said I could have had more energy; what kinds of things could I have done to have been more energetic?" or, "Can you explain more about what you mean?"

  5. Cast your net wide

    It doesn't just have to be your boss you ask for feedback from. Include the people that are most affected, so the audience in the presentation, for example, or your colleagues who worked with you on it.

  6. If you also offer to give input and observations and praise to your colleagues, you will be more likely to have it reciprocated. You can also seek feedback from customers, friends and family depending on what you are looking for.

If you'd like to find out more about getting feedback and how to ask for it in the most open way, then do give me a call on 01908 511 062 or click here to ping me an email and let's see how I can help you.

Until next time ...


More about Debra Stevens ...

I'm the founder of DTS, which was established in 1996. A highly successful experiential training company specialising in facilitating behavioural change in all aspects of dealings with people, whether in customer service, sales, management or with colleagues and teammates.

I've managed large contracts such as Pearson Education, Coca Cola, Penguin Books, Accenture, and Santander for over 21 years and have built up excellent relationships with key sponsors of all aspects of the businesses.

I'm a successful trainer, writer and speaker with nearly 30 years' experience of training people at all levels.


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