Feedback — the key to improvisation

The hardest part of any process is “improvisation”. A couple of days back I was pairing with my son (4 years old) on his school homework and there were a couple of realizations or new learning for me. While I was telling him what is right and how to do it rightly, he was less willing to hear and was kind of sure that what he knew was right. It made me think that taking feedback doesn’t come naturally. It also made me think that giving feedback could be strenuous when someone is not open to taking it.

Image Courtesy: Google
Why is feedback important?

Feedback is important if we care about the people, organization and above all self. It becomes important when we care. Feedback is very contextual and perspective driven. It helps you understand the different perspective on the same thing. Feedback is powerful, it helps you understand the expectation people have for the work you are doing, and from you as well. It goes a level deeper than just the binary nature of the delivery aspect of the work. It also helps build a channel between two people, a channel of understanding and trust when the feedback is delivered constructively. Do not see it through the lens of fault finding, it ruins the importance and value of feedback. Someone willing to give you feedback means someone is willing to help you change for the better. Someone is willing to invest their personal/professional time to help improve you.

How to give and take feedback?

There would be a lot of posts on how to give feedback. But in this post, I specifically want to talk in a little detail about how to take feedback. Giving a feedback requires a considerable effort. It’s easy when you are in the moment and you say “it’s good”, “it sucks” or “this is pathetic”. But the moment a negative word is uttered, it lets the other person consider you as a threat or go in a shell of self-defense. It might even hamper their self-confidence. Giving feedback (which needs bringing in a change or improvisation in people) requires one to be thoughtful and be able to put things in a positive frame and hence is tricky and doesn’t come naturally to everyone. The person at the receiving end has to feel the urge of improvising it because this would impact their persona in a great way. We need to learn the art of empathy to be able to pass on a negative feedback.

On the other hand, when we are at the receiving end of feedback, we should understand that somebody is taking interest possibly because either they see us as not matching the expectations or someone is helping us fine-tune on an inter-personal level. In both the situation, the person taking feedback is benefitted. For example, at the workplace, listening to feedback also helps understand the finer aspects of unsaid behavioral expectations.

We need to move away from gauging feedback as a binary process. We need to stop categorizing it as good/bad or positive/negative.

Happy Reading !!

Nishant Verma (CEO, TestVagrant Technologies & Author of Mobile Test Automation with Appium)