I’ve been contemplating feedback lately and the irony that the word has two meanings; to give/receive some form of praise or critique and the horrible ear-splitting noise that sound equipment emits when it's not properly set up. Feedback (in both senses of the word) has the effect of quickly grabbing our attention and creating a reaction or response. Feedback (again in both senses of the word) is also temporary.
As your career progresses, you become better at being able to receive feedback, but that doesn’t always mean you know what to do with it. Healthy feedback, delivered with compassion and with your best interests at heart has the opportunity to help you grow and develop in your pursuits. However, one person’s definition of “constructive feedback” may touch another person’s excruciating vulnerabilities (knowingly or unknowingly). I myself have spent weeks crafting a thoughtful summation of an employee’s strengths and weaknesses, designed to enable collaboration on potential areas of development… and had it received with a visible flinch. Both the giving and receiving of feedback has lessons for all parties.
It can be hard to hear (or learn) about your weaknesses, either because you don’t want to know this about yourself, or because it means others can see the flaws you'd rather they didn't (sometimes it is both). The flip side of critique is praise; having someone recognize something you did as “well done” or “beyond expectations” is something you may crave. Oddly enough, you may receive praise with the same wariness you receive critique, not allowing it to really sink in because you may think this person is “just being nice” or because you fear the “new” standard of performance your success has just set. In many cases you'll remember critique, but not praise. Criticism has an “emotional weight” that is heavier than the perceived lightness of praise. So knowing that, would it surprise you to learn that over the great wash of time you are as likely to receive as much praise as criticism? What you chose to remember and let touch you may not be balanced, but they do equalize over time (track it for yourself and see, but be prepared to be objective and let each touch you in meaningful ways).
At the end of the day what other people provide as feedback to us, and how think about us, is fluid; it changes over time and offers insight into both the positive and negative aspects of our way of being. What you are left with then is…yourself. You cannot always change the way others experience or perceive you, because you do not control them, nor are you an expert on others (much as you may think otherwise from time to time). You are only in control of yourself, and you are also the expert on yourself too.
Acknowledging feedback (both positive and negative) is part distortion and part education. It requires you to be the steward of your own development, knowing what is objective and reasonable to consider, and what is not, allowing the right things to touch and influence you at the right time for the right reasons. Without both praise and critique you would have a difficult time discerning the right thing to do, it would be like walking in a blinding snowstorm with no reference points to guide the way. You need both praise and criticism to shed their different lights on something to allow you to see what is needed… the clear path becomes visible through their shadow and light, allowing you to see and walk through the world in your unique way.
Carleen and I worked together for three months and it's the best investment I could have made in myself. My work life isn't perfect but its a whole more rewarding now!"