There are two types of feedback. Ok, there are probably many more than two, but I’m going to focus on two of them. We all give feedback on a fairly regular basis. With our words, with our actions, with our facial expressions, with our laughter, and with our tears. Personal feedback is often based on emotion and therefore frequently changes. Professional feedback is often a reaction based on an action, and is fairly consistent since people don’t change their ways as frequently. But those are not the two types of feedback I was alluding to. The two are:
- Comments made as a result one’s insecurities (often prefaced with it being “constructive feedback”)
- Comments that project an intimate understanding of someone
The Insecure Self:
I believe that every person has insecurities, just as they have fears, preferences, and dislikes. Insecurities are most often based on past experience — some distant, some not so distant, but that’s just a factor of age. These insecurities come out in personal and professional settings, and essentially define how one carries themselves. This quickly spirals out of control, since the rest of society might not perceive an attitude one projects through the same lens as one intends to be perceived. That leads to over compensating, and life, in an existential sense, just seems like one big exercise of calibrating one’s behavior to match intention with perception.
In the midst of calibrating one’s behavior and self, one can’t help but be vocal about feedback on others. After all, the process of self reflection often blends with judging others (to set benchmarks if nothing else) and judgement causes emotion, which must find a release somehow. If courage permits, the judgement leads to feedback, and if the lack of confidence gets the better of us, the feedback is bestowed on someone else anyway. This kind of feedback, while easier to give, is very hard to receive. The recipient is blasted with someone’s opinion (mostly an over reaction) based on an action. That opinion plants a seed of insecurity in the recipient, and well, the rest of the day doesn’t go as well as it perhaps started.
It is challenging to understand people. Most people struggle to understand even just themselves. It is easier to judge people based on action, your own experience, or analytically examining someone else. Just to get good at that alone is an achievement, and feedback given based on understanding someone is much harder to give (for most people) and is gut wrenching to receive. Not necessarily in a bad way. Receiving that feedback is like someone stripped you bare.
For the egotistical, it’s almost offensive. Could it be that you’re just that simple to figure out? Given the emotional mess your entire past was (everyone’s is to an extent), there is certainly enough complexity you would have achieved to your being that should make it difficult for someone to break you down with a word. While the complexity might be real, often enough, a core characteristic impacts an individual to such an extent that all aspects of an individual stem from that one seed. And it takes one by surprise, when a third party stumbles upon that characteristic.
For the humble, or empathetic, who spend most of their lives thinking about things from another’s perspective, it brings them to tears. Finally, after all the people they come across on a daily basis with a seemingly non-existent EQ, someone has apparently understood them to the core. It’s simultaneously joyous and sad enough to bring them to tears. It’s a beautifully human moment.
Independent of the levels of EQ, empathy, and the rest of the ‘soft skills’ people have, ego gets in the way of accepting feedback. This results in the recipient either blaming others for their shortcomings, highlighting the provider’s shortcomings, or figuratively curling up in to a ball. There is a small subset of people to be inspired by, for whom feedback is used for it’s intention — to grow. It is heard, it is internalized, and it is acted upon. If no action is going to be taken on the feedback received, then, to maintain one’s emotional equilibrium, one must be undoubtedly satisfied with who they are. And if one has self doubt, then accepting feedback and acting on it is the only rational choice. So, perhaps all feedback can be good feedback provided we either use it to reaffirm our belief in our perfect self (relative to others), or we improve ourselves to perfection.