Summer Skill Series: Feedback
What is Feedback?
To develop ourselves and the people around us, we must turn to the pivotal—though sometimes overlooked—practice of feedback. We’ve all seen and perhaps even experienced the most basic type of feedback typically expressed when someone outlines the consequences of unmet expectations. But feedback can be much more useful when it transcends negativity and instead suggests alternative actions for better results.
Feedback—quality feedback—isn’t just about outlining problems but also illuminating solutions, after all.
Why is it Important?
If we want the best out of ourselves and those in our professional and personal circles, we have to be dedicated communicators—not just talkers, but listeners as well. While feedback can improve our relationships, it could be problematic for those relationships if we tend to offer feedback without knowing how to take it.
Thus must we seek and listen to feedback. Not only does this express our interest in bettering our interactions with others, but knowing what others expect of us can help drive engagement, productivity, and overall harmony.
How to Practice Feedback:
When receiving feedback, it’s important that we keep our defenses lowered and do our best to assume that the other person is trying to better us instead of attacking us. As discussed in this video by Harvard Lecturer Douglas Stone, it’s natural to balk at criticism. But when we navigate criticism—both solicited and unsolicited criticism—with grace and gratitude, we inspire confidence.
Wear another’s shoes.
Before we offer feedback, we should stop to consider the other person’s perspective. What do they have going on? What is their preferred communication method? Do they relate more with numbers or emotions? We should shape our comments in such a way that it resonates with them.
The best feedback begins with a brief preamble preparing the recipient for the upcoming evaluation, followed by specificity instead of ambiguity. Illustrated here by the University of New South Wales, to get better results, we shouldn’t leave room for misinterpretation. We must be clear and precise with our expectations.
We all ought to keep in mind that feedback is a tool. Whether we’re giving or getting it, feedback should be used for the benefit of both others and ourselves.
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