How to ask for (and give) feedback?
Feedback is a crucial tool in relationships and work.
Why are we obsessed with feedback?
We live in a fast-paced world where we’re hit by post-modern anxieties and held captive by the self-improvement cult. If we don’t subscribe to the continuous improvement mentality and be part of feedback loops, we’re subject to unemployment and we might suffer to find mates.
As I used to subscribe to the idea of restless self-improvement, I was obsessed with feedback. I would ask for feedback from my manager, my friends, and even dates (and I’m not kidding!).
Do we really need to ask for feedback?
On a Friday night, while I was having Mediterranean food with my rock climbing friends, we were talking about feedback. I seized the opportunity and asked my friends if they had any feedback for me.
My friend Travis gave me the best feedback I could ever get: “My feedback to you is to not ask for feedback.” Though his statement might sound subtle, it made a big difference in my life. It made me realize that people should accept you the way you are.
When people drastically disagree they’ll make themselves heard. Assuming the worst about what people think of you is not a great place to be in. Also, you can infer an agreement or the lack thereof from someone’s body language. If they agree, then they’ll nod and smile. If they don’t, they’ll look anxious and confused.
At work too, I might have been an annoyance when I asked for feedback. In our one-on-one meetings, I’d just ask my manager: “What’s your feedback for me?” When he realized the pattern, he offered some techniques about asking for feedback. He told me that I should help him help me by being more specific and ask about particulars.
He went on “When you ask for feedback frame it by mentioning a particular work area, additionally, anchor it by asking if you’re meeting, missing, or exceeding the expectations.”
How to give feedback?
I liked it when people offered criticism and just gave me a piece of their mind. I learned the hard way that most people don’t blatantly like hearing what we think. It is that when you criticize someone, you’re also pushing them away. People like their feedback sugar-coated regardless of how open to feedback they describe themselves.
Recently I’ve learned that love should be unconditional and that acceptance should be unreserved. It makes feedback unnecessary unless people particularly ask for it or that you see a destructive or a dangerous behavior.
In case you’re asked, however, be vigilant that feedback is a tricky subject. Be subtle, and use “I statements” rather than “you statements.” Be genuinely curious to learn more about their behavior and what caused it in the past before making any judgments. Ask them if they’re facing any problems, perhaps you can help. And lastly, have an open mind about what they have to say.