Your baby is ugly

How to hear the full story when asking for feedback

Getting honest feedback is the most important thing for an entrepreneur to do. Whether it’s to improve your product or your pitch, it’s the ticket to continued improvement. But finding people who are honest is a challenge. The reason — people feel uncomfortable telling the truth.

But here I am. Telling you that your baby is ugly (just kidding, I’m sure it’s adorable). See, I did it myself. I couldn’t tell you the truth because it feels weird.

Feedback is often filled with caveats. It’s what people do to hedge their own comments — like I did above. It’s up to you to find ways to strip out those caveats and get the unvarnished opinion.

One way of doing this is to ask for it. Feedback is not pushed on to you- especially the honest kind. Asking for the truth is the first step in getting it. And don’t ask once, ask often. People’s opinions change over time so you must stay current.

I have also found that when I ask through email, I get better feedback than in person. If people aren’t comfortable telling you face to face, then change the medium. It doesn’t matter how you hear it, you just need to hear it.

I also believe in the power of anonymity. There is some dispute over the merits of anonymous feedback. Naysayers would claim it lacks context. True. But context does not always matter.

For example, if I am mumbling during a pitch, someone needs to tell me. In that scenario, the forum is irrelevant and so is the messenger. The gold is in the message itself. Do I give a shit that Anonymous told me? No. I take it and I get better.

There are some cases though were context matters. Adora Cheung, CEO of Homejoy, talks about the feedback honesty curve. If you are creating something free, your friends tend to be the most honest — they’ll tell you if what you are doing is garbage. If it’s a paid service, your customers will give the clearest picture of their opinions. Under no circumstances should you listen to your parents. They will bullshit you all day.

So as an entrepreneur, don’t get insulted if someone tells you that your baby — your company — is ugly. It took a lot for them to do that, and most people wouldn’t. Instead, listen. Listen to why they think that way. Listen to their suggestions. Listen to their ideas.

And then say thank you. It’s because of them you will get better.

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