Your Ultimate Pathway To Personal Growth: Feedback That Hurts

One of our deepest human needs is to grow, develop and become better today than we were yesterday, and that is not easy.

We associate growth and development with pain because they usually mean change; we need to do things differently to achieve different results and get different outcomes.

To do things differently is to explore areas we aren’t familiar with, use skills we haven’t mastered, develop and evolve processes we haven’t perfected.

What it comes down to is stepping into unfamiliar grounds, putting ourselves on the line and being more liable to fail. That scares the heck out of us and makes the pathway to our personal growth seem harder than it really is, to the point we avoid it at any cost.

That pathway is feedback; it’s the one thing that matters most for any personal growth or development to take place. Without feedback, you have no idea what’s the true value you’re creating, what your impact is and how your results are received by the outside world.

However, not every feedback is valuable feedback. In fact the only feedback that really matters, the only feedback that is valuable, and the only feedback that makes a real difference, is the feedback that really, really hurts!

What is feedback that really hurts? It’s the one that looks like an attack on you, your personality, ideas, values, what you stand for, your work, what you do, your actions, behaviours, everything you’re part of, everything you represent, everything you are, everything that is you.

The worst part about feedback that really hurts is that it never looks like feedback. It always looks like an attack, it comes with anger and it usually forces you to shut down, stop listening, raise your shields, put up your defences, and attack back.

Why feedback that hurts? Why not regular feedback?
 When people are angry and in an attack mode, they’re usually not reserved, and the rational part of their brain that usually sugar coats feedback with bullshit icing is temporarily unavailable to them. As a result, they will share their raw thoughts using the first words that occur to them. That is the most honest and most valuable feedback you can get.

Could that be why Steve Jobs got remarkable results from his team? Jobs is known for being unapologetically direct and rude. So if he thought a piece of technology is shit, he would not say “thank you, why don’t you try harder and do your best the next time.” He would get angry and call it “a piece of shit.” That is a super clear response that means you really need to go back to the drawing board and rethink the whole damn thing.

If you got that kind of feedback, there is no doubt in your mind that you need to be rethinking the whole thing and innovating the heck out of it. You just can’t rationalize your way around such feedback, and you won’t misunderstand it.

Recently I got into an argument with someone I work with, we both got angry and the argument turned into a shouting match. I wasn’t listening, I was ready to defend myself, I wanted to win and prove I was right.

When I calmed down and thought things through, I saw things differently; ‘that was feedback.’

Yes, he probably didn’t intend for what he said in the argument to be feedback, he was just angry about a few things and upset from me. But when I thought about it as feedback, that completely shifted my response, and instead of seeking an apology from him, I asked for more ‘feedback.’

So we met a couple of days after and I asked him to share with me everything that was coming in the way of us working together as one team and preventing us from collaborating. In plain terms I asked, ” tell me where you think I fucked up, what was I doing wrong and what issues do you have with me?”

I listened as he shared all the things that caused him to be angry at me. I realized that I had no idea of the unintended impact of things I said or did. It was the best feedback anyone could’ve given me about how I show up for that team and the impact I have on them.

I recalled some arguments I had with people I worked with in the past. How different would our results and relationships be if only I saw their anger, frustration, and the hurtful things they said as feedback?

How valuable would it be for you to get this kind of unedited, unfiltered, honest feedback? Are you able to see anger, argument, and disagreement as feedback? Are you able to get curious about the reasons behind these reactions and ask questions to find out?

You don’t have to wait until you get involved in an argument or someone gets angry at you. You can start getting feedback today by asking the people in your life and the people you work with open questions like:
— What is there between us that is unresolved?
— What is there for me to clean up or address?
— What do you really think of my work?
— What do you really think of my behavior?
— What do you really think of the way I conduct myself?
— What impact do I have on our work and our relationship at work?
— What do you really think of the way I show up at work?
— What are my strengths?
— What are my weaknesses?
— Where do I mess things up?
— Where did I fuck things up?

Make sure you ask the questions and listen intently to the answers. Create a safe space for them to be brutally honest and direct with you. The last thing you want to do is argue with them, negate what they are saying, or point out how they are wrong. That will not go well. The moment you start doing that, people will shut down and will get back to sugar coating their answers and giving you bullshit feedback. What’s worse is that you will mostly show up as someone who doesn’t listen and only interested in your own opinion.

Warning: Honest and direct feedback is going to be hard, sometimes very hard. So breathe through it. And remember feedback about you is not an accurate representation of who you really are, it’s just the way that person sees you and how you showed up to them in the past. You can change that and turn things around.

With every feedback session you conduct, you will have a more accurate representation of your personal brand and how you show up in the world. You will start to recognize certain patterns of things you say and do that are shaping how people see you and deal with you.

Such valuable feedback paves the ultimate pathway to personal growth. Even before you start doing or saying things differently, just the fact that you are asking for this kind of feedback will cause people to start to see you in a very different light. They will respect you more, they will be more open and honest in how they deal with you. This is a very different way to operate, one that will enable you to generate very different results.

You now have information you can act on. It’s up to you to choose what you’re going to do with it. You can ignore it, or use it to become the person you are meant to be and create a remarkable impact in the world.


Originally published at mantalks.com on June 29, 2015.

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