Is Feedback a Gift?

Feedback Is Not Always a Gift, but a Cry for Help

Antony Henao
The Utopian Engineering Society
6 min readMar 12, 2024


Over many years of my career, I’ve heard a lot about the idea that: Feedback is a gift. But sometimes, I’m not completely confident that feedback is a gift. Sometimes feedback only comes from a deep intention of wanting to control things.

When this happens I believe feedback is not a gift, but a cry for help. But we usually don’t frame it that way.

Feedback as a Mechanism to Control

I joined a new team a couple of weeks ago. This new team has a very specific way of working. They meet up every week and brainstorm about ideas they think can be useful. It has been a couple of weeks since this started. So far, things remain the same. We discuss many things and have many ideas. But, we have executed very little.

This bothers me a lot since I consider this way of working “ineffective.” Which is not anything else than a judgment based on my preferences. Usually, in this situation, I intervene and try to push the team to execute. But this time, I decided to do things differently. I decided to observe the team dynamics and see what I could learn. Nonetheless, this is sometimes a challenging exercise for me.

One day, after one of these meetings, I was feeling annoyed. The voice in my head was saying something like…

For real? Another session that turns into a brainstorming session? We have been like this for a month! Everyone has ideas, but what about execution? when are we going to start executing? What is the purpose of this?

My mind was full of pure mental chatter on how I would do things differently. How I was right and they were wrong.

As someone who cares a lot about people, when one of these thoughts crosses my mind I try to be careful. I know I can hurt people when I’m speaking from a point of annoyance and pure judgment. But some days, things get a little bit out of control.

This day was one of these days… So, I started to think.

Yes, I’m going to give them feedback about this. They are doing this wrong. They are only generating ideas and not executing, blah, blah, blah…Every session turns into a brainstorming session, blah, blah, blah…

I was feeling self-righteous about it. Like I was about to do something good. I was already planning the script in my mind. “I will say this and that. I will be specific and support my feedback with facts, blah, blah, blah…” I was also justifying my behavior by telling myself “I know this is right. Feedback is a gift.

Over the years I’ve learned that when I’m angry, my mind is willing to say anything to channel my anger. So, I usually don’t act when I’m feeling this way. So, after this brief episode of anger, I decided to take a break, make myself lunch, and breathe a little bit.

After my lunch, I decided to meditate about the situation. That’s when everything got clearer for me!

I didn’t want to give feedback because I thought it was a gift. I wanted to give feedback because I wanted to take control of the situation. I wanted things to be my way! I thought I was right and they were wrong.

You see… Over my career, I’ve seen myself as highly focused and efficient. If there’s a problem that needs to be solved, I can solve it quickly with a practical approach:

I make sure to understand the problem well. Then, I make a proposal for improvement and open it to discussion. I execute and iterate. That’s how I make things happen. I usually focus a lot on execution rather than brainstorming. I care more about progress rather than perfection. I plan, execute, iterate, and I do it very quickly.

I’ve been praised in my career for being a fast-moving person and someone who tends to bring good solutions to the table. Which has made me believe that I’m good at executing things.

So, when faced with this kind of situation like the one I’m sharing with you, I kind of feel frustrated and annoyed. I think I have a “better way” to do things. So, I’m willing to give feedback about that. This made me realize I was not intended to give feedback as a gift but as a way to control the whole situation and make things work my way.

When I got this insight, I decided to see things from a different perspective. I started to replay the meetings and the interactions among them. This allowed me to understand what was truly happening, not what my mind was telling me…

I realized that, perhaps, the problem was me. If I analyze the facts, I can’t find any problem. The meetings are always full of exchange of ideas. People usually participate in the discussion — which is not always usual. It seems the whole thing is starting to build camaraderie among them. Yes, perhaps they haven’t executed too much about what they are brainstorming about, but the team is starting to form and get to know each other. Everything seems to be on track…

Is their way of working something wrong or is it just different than mine?

I think this realization opened up a new world of possibilities for me. I would usually give feedback and do everything possible for things to work my way in this kind of situation. Sometimes it would work and sometimes it would cause a lot of friction and tension. Letting go of it was not usually on the table.

But, this time was different. When I realized that my feedback was not precisely a gift, but me trying to control, I just simply let go of the situation. That brought so much peace…What’s better about it is that it seems to be working for everyone.

Feedback as a Cry for Help

As I mentioned at the beginning, sometimes feedback is not a gift. Sometimes it’s a cry for help and we should be clear about it.

I’ve given feedback too many times. I’ve said things such as “You could benefit from doing X and Y because… blah, blah, blah” This type of feedback has different intentions. I’m pretty sure some intentions are purer than others.

Sometimes it’s just me trying to control the whole situation. When that happens I think such feedback is me saying “I don’t know how to work this way. You could benefit from working my way.”

When I think about it this way, I realize I don’t want to give feedback. I just need help and don’t know how to ask for it.

In this particular case I’m sharing with you, I wanted to say something like…

I want to give you some feedback. I think we could benefit from brainstorming less and executing more. Over the last 3 or 4 meetings, I’ve noticed every meeting turns into a brainstorming session. I think we should go and execute more and learn from the actual execution rather than just brainstorming.

Now I’m aware that feedback is sometimes a cry for help, here’s another way I would open the conversation.

So…I wanted to share with you how I feel about our meetings. Over the last 3 or 4 meetings, I’ve noticed every meeting turns into a brainstorming session. I feel frustrated about that. I would like us to execute more and learn from the execution itself rather than just brainstorming. But I don’t know how to approach this situation. I need help. Can you help me?”

Do you see the difference between “feedback as a gift” and “feedback as a cry for help?” Sometimes we don’t need to give feedback. Sometimes we just need to be vulnerable and ask for help.

Final Thoughts

Some teams execute differently than others. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with their way of working. They are only doing things differently and that’s okay.

Some teams do not optimize only for speed. They also optimize for team building, engagement, and co-creation. People and teams go through their processes. There’s no perfect way to do things. People and teams need to experience things to come up with their insights.

When it comes to feedback, I still think is useful and can be a gift. But it depends on your approach and your intention.

From now on, I’ll double-check if I want to give “feedback as a gift” or, if it’s just me trying to control the situation.

After all, I’ve learned that feedback is not always a gift. Sometimes it is just a cry for help. If it’s a cry for help it’s better to frame it that way.

So…What do you think?

Is feedback a gift?