Confession: I struggle with feedback.

Secondary confession: I struggled with writing this post because I dislike feedback that much. Sigh.

Maybe I can have a feedback mailbox?

When I am looking at a process my favorite thing is to involve “outside eyes” — or someone who doesn’t do the work every day, as their mind is less likely to skip over biases, be blinded by muscle memory, and ignore all things that we just do because we’ve always done them that way.

It is ironic, then, that I struggle so much with personal feedback in this same regards. Receiving feedback both positive and negative makes me squirm.

I feel uncomfortable with positive feedback, as I’m not quite sure about the attention it demands everyone is looking at me — make it stop.

When I receive negative feedback, my fists go up immediately — at the defensive, ready to fight.

The conflict here, though, is that I also need feedback. I crave it. I want to know if I’m moving in the right direction, and making the correct choices. So, I have started trying to make myself be more comfortable with all kinds of feedback.

Just because it is uncomfortable doesn’t mean I can stop receiving feedback.

The lack of feedback, though, isn’t a solution. Not receiving feedback isn’t okay. Doing the same job again and again while ignoring the outside world and all feedback quickly becomes irreversibly stagnant and stale. Change does happen. Feelings get pressed further down.

The longer we go without accepting feedback, the hard it becomes to take it. And the less folks are willing to dish it out, as well.

How I’ve learned to (try and) manage feedback better

For me, feedback is best in the moment. If something isn’t working, I want to know about it right now — not 2 weeks from now at a feedback meeting, or next year at an employee review. Let me correct my action now, as it’s on my mind.

The only exception being when things are on fire — that is not the time to point out that there is also fire on the other side of the room, or, that you may have put out the fire in a different way. Save that for afterwards, when the fire is out and everyone is safe.

I also prefer feedback in written format. This gives me time to digest, reread, and make sure I fully understand before giving a reaction. Let me process the thoughts for a few minutes, and then we’ll proceed. Feedback in verbal format often feels aggressive, and it often lends itself to me reacting with fists up, which is clearly not the correct interaction — but one I am working on.

For positive feedback, I’ve started working on not deflecting the compliment, but instead, saying thank you and letting it sit. It still feels so weird — but I’m working on it.

This is far from perfect

I am certainly not rock-star in the feedback game, but it is something I am (actively) working on.

Do you have tips? I — clearly — could use some advice :-)

I have the extreme pleasure to share the ups and downs of this journey with some wonderful folks over at Support Driven — an online community for Customer Support Professionals. Right now we are focusing on writing for us, and have put together a fun writing challenge. Feel free to join us — we’d love to have you!