It’s the season of giving, but the season of giving need not only apply to physical gifts. In fact, it’s argued by some (me) that one of the best gifts you can give someone has no physical presence of any kind. What is this mysterious, non-physical gift of which I speak? It’s the gift of feedback, of course.
This week, my work team and I had our very own feedback session and I came away thinking about how important feedback is at work, but also how helpful it can be in life overall. It seems to me that there isn’t a situation, or relationship, or team dynamic, that can’t be, at the very least, slightly improved by feedback.
Lucky for you, and your ears, the feedback I’m talking about isn’t going to assault your ears. Instead, think of feedback as being vulnerable - letting someone know what you appreciate about them and their work, and what you would like to see them be more mindful of, and maybe even improve upon.
I want to make one thing very clear: feedback is not an excuse to attack someone, or tell them everything they are doing poorly. It’s an exercise meant to help your communication, in your relationship, and overall, which can build (or destroy) credibility, influence, and trust. How? Follow me and let’s find out together, shall we?
I’m willing to bet that at some point in your life, you have come across someone you wanted to praise or chat with about how you communicate together, or how you work together. They could be an associate, a partner, a friend, or even a sibling, but the fact is, feedback will serve them all the same.
Allowing yourself to give this person feedback is beneficial on two levels. Not only does it inform the other person of the things they are doing well, and the things you may think they should reevaluate, but it also opens up a level of comfort between you and this person.
Trust me, it’s not easy to sit across from someone and tell them all the things you think are great about them, and it’s THAT much harder to tell them what they may not be so great at. But in doing it, you break down a wall that tends to build itself between people in close relationships. We often don’t want to upset them, or get on their bad side, or even embarrass them. But giving them this feedback in the right way – potentially in the presence of the rest of other people – will demolish that wall and show the person that even though you may be pointing out a few flaws, you are doing it because you care about them.
It’s a good feeling to know that, though your words may be hard to take, they carry with them a level of care that isn’t accessible without the vulnerability offered through feedback.
The same can be said for receiving feedback. If done properly – not judgmental, not accusatory, but with care – getting feedback will improve your communication with the person in front of you, and may even open your eyes to new aspects about them you didn’t know existed, which will improve your relationship with them as well.
Obviously we all want to be praised (on some level), and be told that what we’re doing is good, but it’s also immensely important for us to be told the things that we aren’t doing so well. Why? Because if you’re anything like most humans, you don’t see yourself from the other person’s perspective. It’s important for all of us to be called out on the things that may not jive with other people because we only see ourselves from the inside out, not from the outside in.
How can we expect to improve our relationships if we don’t know what the other person is thinking? Or better yet, how can we improve if we don’t know what the people closest to us think we should work on?
I’m not really one to tell you how to do something, but I can give you a suggestion based on my own experiences.
The way I like to have a feedback session is to sit with the person or people I am feedbacking (it’s a verb) with, set the ground rules of no judgement, no animosity, and no problem-solving, and just start talking. Turn off your phones, turn off the stereo or the TV, and just sit there with each other as you all go around the room and open up. It’s incredibly awkward and uncomfortable at first, but it will leave with a feeling of renewal, and what feels like a 700lb weight getting lifted off your shoulders.
Until next time – don’t be afraid to open up.