Feedback is a double-edged sword. While feedback can be used to improve performance, it can also be a medium for harsh criticism. There are many factors that affect the delivery and reception of feedback including: where the feedback is given, the tone of the feedback, the medium used to send the feedback, the proximity of the feedback to the incident, biases, and what’s going on in the sender and recipient’s lives.
I’ve recently experienced what it’s like to receive feedback and witnessed a horrible interaction of someone receiving feedback. I’ve found that even if feedback is given appropriately, it can still be received negatively because the recipient internalizes the feedback to mean something about themselves. For example, I submitted a beer to a competition for feedback. I knew something wasn’t quite right with my beer and I couldn’t figure out. Although I’m a beer judge myself, I still have certain flaws that are difficult for me to identify. My weakness is oxidation ( oxygen in the beer). I have a hard time calling that flaw out. However, the judges gave me feedback that my beer had a good base, but something went wrong with fermentation. This feedback was eye opening. I can now taste my beer and identify what’s wrong. I also know that I need to ferment my beer a different way that keeps oxygen out. I was being lazy and used one way valves instead of an airlock. I took the feedback well. However, I could have easily ran away with the feedback to mean something about me personally. The rabbit hole goes as follows: My beer was horrible. I’m an awful brewer. I’m a screw up. It might seem extreme reading those conclusions, but many of us go down the path of mental dispare when we receive feedback.
That leads me to my second example. I was at a restaurant for breakfast and there was a woman cooking. A few of her employees were giving her feedback and she was abrasive towards them. Her abrasiveness spilled over into her job as she started to become short with customers and used profanity. At face value, it appeared that she overreacted. However, there were many factors that may have led to her responses. It was her first day and she may have felt nervous. She was young, black and young. She may have thought her male colleagues were being biased and ridiculing her. She may have had some growing up to do that would have allowed her to grow from feedback instead of become defensive. Whatever the case, watching that woman’s interaction with her co-workers made it clear that there are negative effects to shutting down feedback. Other coworkers had to leave their stations to assist her and there were multiple incorrect and burnt orders. It was a disaster. Everytime I heard her say, “I got it,” made me cringe. It’s more than ok to not have it all together and it’s even better to learn from not having it together.
The point of those examples were to encourage you to do some self-reflection the next time you get feedback. Regardless of whether the feedback was “warranted” or desired, use it as a learning experience. What can you improve, tweak, or consider based on the feedback you received. The next thing I want you to reflection upon is how you responded to the feedback. If it was favorable, think about why. If it was out of proportion or unfavorable think about what aspect of the feedback sent things south. Also think about what the feedback makes you think about yourself. Attaching feedback to our worth trips a lot of us up .
Feel free to share your opinions about this in the comments. Me and other readers are interested in hearing your thoughts.