Sometimes feedback and opinions from others is helpful, sometimes it isn’t. Discover how to tell the difference and how to rebuild your confidence if some feedback undermined you.
02:10 – When it’s useful to listen to feedback and when it isn’t
06:17 – How giving credence to feedback can take you away from important goals
15:00 – Why people feel the need to give and receive feedback that isn’t helpful
19:30 – Why positive feedback can block your growth
66 Days to Retrain Yourself in Good Habits of Mind
Rate This Podcast
Subscribe to the MindStory Speaker Podcast
Connect with Carla Rieger:
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/carlarieger
Twitter – https://twitter.com/carlarieger
LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/carlarieger/
This is episode 102 – How to Handle Feedback from Others. Sometimes feedback and opinions from others is helpful, sometimes it isn’t. Discover how to tell the difference and how to rebuild your confidence if you felt undermined. Hi, I’m Carla Rieger and this is the MindStory Speaker podcast, activating leaders to help steer humanity into a golden age.
Lots of my clients come to me feeling disheartened by negative feedback they receive from others. Other times I notice they keep themselves stuck because they are hungering for positive feedback. This could be feedback from clients, prospects, family members, colleagues, coworkers, bosses, neighbors or just other people you know on social media
What I want to talk about today has been very important for a lot of people I’ve worked with, for myself and colleagues. I believe it can relieve you, free you up from other people’s opinions. I would like to give you permission to not be dependent on feedback from others. We often get this programming to depend on feedback when we’re in school and from our parents. Why? Because it’s an easier way to manipulate a person’s behavior with threats of criticism, or with the carrot of accolades.
We often get told when we’re young, you need to be able to take criticism, you know, it’s the only way you can learn and develop and grow. And if you don’t want to take that criticism then there something wrong with you, you’re too fragile, you’re too much in your own world, you’re selfish.
What I’m saying is that I think many times the best course of action is NOT to take any heed of either positive or negative feedback. Of course there are a few occasions when it’s useful, and we’ll talk about the difference. This can be especially important if you are now putting up content online, or running meetings online where people can leave comments that are anonymous. Often that feedback is being run by a personal agenda, and is not helpful. For example, there are people who like the fact they can say what they want without anyone knowing who they are, so they decide to vent and do it in a mean spirited way. On top of that there are paid trolls who’s job it is to say nasty things on social media to certain targets. In those cases, you can tell by the kind of language and tone they use, that’s its one of those, and disregard it. They want you to get upset, and if you just don’t it takes the wind out of their little sails, and they’ll go pick on someone else.
Now, if you are giving information that’s factually incorrect, and a person if pointing that out, AND they can back up that claim, then great. You can say…I stand corrected. But sometimes people just say – there’s no proof of that claim – yet they have no proof it isn’t true. For example, I remember when you could smoke on planes. I was a kid flying to Europe sitting near the back of the plane, and dozens of people were chain smoking the whole way. My mother told the flight attendant, known as a stewardess at the time, that their smoking was harmful to everyone’s lungs on the plane, and it would be great if they stopped. She said – there’s no proof that smoking is harmful. At the time, there wasn’t much proof. But the stewardess also had no proof that is wasn’t harmful. Now it’s accepted as fact and no one is allowed to smoke on an airplane. So when skeptics or media companies or platforms say – there’s no proof without much to back that up – they are doing the exact same thing they are accusing others of. So, a general rule is…if they can back that up with a legitimate source…I go check it out and decide for myself if I want to alter what I say based on that fact. For example, I told a story about a 1940’s reconnaissance flight over the Sahara and showed a picture of the plane. A man in my audience came up to me afterwards and said that plane wasn’t invented until the 1950s. So, I checked it out, and he was right. I switched the image to a typical kind of plane that did reconnaissance missions in the 40’s.
Giving a lot of credence to other people’s feedback is that you may tend to unconsciously, or consciously start editing yourself, veering away from your own truth to be liked. You listen to the comments, the good ones and the bad ones, and start behaving in a way to please both of them. Hankering after more of the good ones, and hopefully avoiding the bad ones.
Very few people have actually learned how to give proper feedback. By proper feedback I mean nonjudgmental, not mixed up with their own opinions, not filtered through their own consciousness bias, or unprocessed emotions, or through a personal agenda. They are giving it simply with the intention of being constructive, where it comes from place of neutrality, respect, value for the person and truly wanting a good outcome for all concerned. Even when people think they are being neutral and unbiased, often they don’t have the awareness and sovereignty of mind to be truly that way.
Think of a piece of feedback you once got, where the person said they were just trying to be helpful, but you had this feeling inside that there was a hidden agenda. Case in point. A client of mine spoke at an event on leadership. She had a very different approach than most of the other speakers. Her philosophy was more collaborative, more about empowering people, rather than having power over. She didn’t say that directly but her examples of how she handled union management issues in her role implied that was her philosophy. The person who suggested she speak, really loved her presentation and thought she did an amazing job. So did about 50% of the audience. The other 50% gave her negative feedback not just on your content but on her delivery. It was a cognitive disconnect for her, the person who invited her to speak, and those in the audience that loved it. The 50% who gave her negative feedback tended towards a less collaborative approach, and more of a traditional approach you know with a more hard lined way of dealing with dissenters, keeping decision-making down to one or a very small group of people. In both cases whether the feedback was negative or positive it was completely driven by the persons philosophy on leadership, their value system, the kind of environment they came from, what help them feel effective and safe as a leader. But she really let the feedback get to her, it brought down her confidence, it made her decline some other invitations to speak. She tried reading the good evaluations to feel better, which would work for day, and then she’d start thinking about the bad evaluations. Meanwhile, her creative work in the world was stagnating. It’s only when we got down to what’s important to her, what legacy does she want to leave, what does she want people to leave with. Once she ground back into her purpose, her vision, her focus for her work, she could let go of all the evaluations. In fact, after that she never read any evaluations. Of course she did want to improve, so she hired a coach, and worked with a mastermind group to give her deep, detailed feedback on how to improve. In those cases, the people giving feedback you how to do it in the right way, with the right intention. Usually, in a short evaluation form when a person has one sentence to express themselves, is not very useful.
So, it’s important to be very clear on what you will allow and what you won’t. Of course people are entitled to their opinion, you can ask them to keep it to themselves. You know people say, do you want my opinion? You can politely and neutrally say, not right now thanks… I just want to stay focused on my direction. If we cannot stop them voicing their opinion, or you sense it might negatively affect relationship to decline their feedback, you can listen, thank them for sharing their opinion. Then, just meditate on it and sort out what is useful and what isn’t. You don’t have to make the other person wrong for having an opinion, you don’t need to complain about them, criticize them, give them negative feedback for giving you negative feedback, you can just listen and say you will consider it.
For example, I had a colleague who loved to give unsolicited feedback. He would never ask, hey do you want my opinion on that? He would just give it to me. I think you should get a coach certification from so and so organization. Of course I already have lots of different types of training in coaching, but I know that this particular organization is where he studied, and he thought that anyone doing coaching should study there. On this occasion, I told him why I chose not to take his advice, but then it turned into a bit of an argument, where it was clear he wanted me to capitulate to his point of view and wouldn’t back down until I did. I kept saying, let’s agree to disagree, but he wouldn’t let it go. I finally just had to walk away from the conversation because it was getting exhausting. After that whenever he gave this unsolicited advice I would just say, thanks for sharing that, I’ll think about it. Then I would mull over it decide whether any of it was useful or not. So in some cases, with some people you might want to pick your battles.
Now, if the feedback is in regards to your relationship with them, things that go on between you, and the relationship is important you, like it’s a spouse or someone you live with…then that’s a different matter. Let’s say, your spouse doesn’t like the fact that you don’t cleanup your lunch dishes right away after lunch. You leave them in the sink. Their feedback is that you should clean them up right away. So now we are talking about what’s important in terms of how we share the living space, is not so much an opinion, but a preference that’s when the art of negotiation comes in. How do you find a win-win outcome? There’s a big difference between someone stating a preference, and giving an opinion about how you behave. My preference is that you do the dishes after your lunch. An opinion is that you are a slob an the opposite, what do they want instead? You can even ask them — what do you want instead? You prefer I cleaned the dishes right after lunch? Yes. So all the dishes rinsed and put in the dishwasher? Yes, and wipe counters down. Okay. And then you can decide if you want to do that, and if you don’t do that what’s can happen between you. And then you give them your preference for how they give feedback. But the more you focus on what you want the person to do, why you want them to do it, get specific, make it clear that it’s a preference, say you want a win-win outcome that’s mutually agreeable, the more likely you’re going to get there. If you just go around spouting opinions, your probably just create more of a chasm of misunderstanding and hurt.
You see, most of us grew up in a school system where we were graded and judged and given feedback, and experienced negative or positive comments by teachers, peers, sports coaches, music instructors. For higher education, we had those entrance exams, at work we had performance evaluations, etc. so you start to think, that’s just how you do it right? But there’s some interesting statistics to show that some of the most creative, innovative people in the world had this innate wisdom to not listen to badly delivered feedback. They let it bounce off them, like water off a ducks back. And they went on to do but they really wanted to do. You might think yourself, what didn’t the people who ended up becoming criminals also not listen to feedback? Now, my mother worked in juvenile social services for 35 years, and I went on to do a lot of training in social services and got to know a lot of people in that profession, and many of them felt like the juvenile delinquents they worked with did the opposite. They actually listened to all the negative feedback, the badly delivered feedback, and took it on, and made it true about them, took it on like a character in a bad play. They pretended to be the rebel, they pretended like they didn’t care, they fought back, but meanwhile they took it on and that’s why they often ended up in a bad situation. This wasn’t always the case, but more often than you’d expect.
So good rule of thumb is, if you feel like something is not working in a relationship, or you work, or project you’re on, you can ask for feedback, but give people guidelines for how you want to receive it. When I work with editors from books, for example, I often ask people to do a sample edit first. If they give comments that include a suggested change, and why they feel that’s important and what they suggest instead, that’s cool. I will seriously consider hiring that editor. If they just say something like – this doesn’t read well, this is sloppy writing, this part here, I don’t like, and just cross the whole thing out and rewrite – then I don’t want to work with them. In a close personal relationship, tell the person what kind of feedback I’m open to, like to receive it, it needs to be coming from place of neutrality, a good intention, needs to be said in terms of what they want instead. Now, if they don’t give the feedback in the right way the first time, I work with them to help them learn how I like to receive feedback, if they’re open to it. No one’s perfect, it’s hard to extract yourself from your own personal opinions, biases, hidden agendas, so if the relationship is important to me I’ll work with the person until we can find a way to communicate in a way that works for both of us. But, if the person is just spouting off their opinion because they feel like it, and it’s a distraction, I’ll just either not look at it, not listen, or just disregard it completely. And is not me being disrespectful to the person, it’s just that it’s a boundary issue. Is like when someone hands you a piece of vanilla sponge cake. It’s a piece of birthday cake, and you’re allergic to flour, you don’t like vanilla and you don’t like sponge cake for that matter. If you don’t eat the cake, does it mean you don’t respect the person whose birthday it is? No, you can raise a glass in honor of them, your presence at the birthday party is what matters. You can say no to the cake.
And, if you do get undermined by peoples feedback, and it’s not coming from someone who skilled at giving feedback, I give you permission to not even look at it, not listen to it. If you can’t avoid the feedback, I give you permission to think about the filters it came through, what might be the persons conscious or unconscious agenda in giving it to you. Not make them wrong, it’s just that most humans aren’t very good at neutrality. And thirdly if you find yourself hungering for positive feedback, and you’re not getting it, or you keep altering your behavior to try to win positive feedback, you are wasting your life force energy. For example I coach people who are coaches. One of my coaches had practicum client who was essentially what I call – uncoachable. It was an old friend from school, and he warned her that any time anyone try to coach him he would just blanketly reject all the feedback. But she insisted on coaching him. And sure enough, every suggestion she made he found fault with. He didn’t like what she said, how she said it, and at the end of the coaching series she felt completely demoralized. I actually thought it was a really important experience for her to have. The next time someone like that warned them ahead of time, I’m uncoachable, she declined coaching them. Why waste your energy on someone who is just going to block everything you say and do? It doesn’t serve you and it doesn’t serve them. It’s okay to walk away and not make the person wrong, they just don’t want coaching. Sure there might be something for you to learn in terms of how you deliver feedback, and if they can give you specifics, and say it in a way that is respectful, then that’s fine. But if you sense that they’re just one of those people that like to nitpick, complain, and demoralize people, because that’s their modus operandi, that’s how they survive in the world, that’s what helps him feel safe, then recognize that ahead of time and just create a boundary.
Many top people in the world of speaking, online or off-line, many people who are innovative change leaders in their business or organization – say they actually don’t pay attention to bad feedback or good feedback – unless it’s from a very trusted source, from someone who is very skilled at giving that kind of feedback, at a time they are open and ready to receive it. I think, in general, that’s a good guideline when it comes to feedback in the world. If you are really connected to your own inner wisdom, if you have a good moral compass, if you care about doing good work, and care about people then take that route. Be a light unto yourself, trust your instincts, do it your way and let your inner sense of rightness be your guide.
Okay, that’s it for today. Please hit subscribe if you’d like to hear about other episodes. See you next time.