How to Tell if You are Getting Sincere Feedback
Asking for feedback is a pretty normal part of life, right? You ask for people’s opinions all the time: Do they like a new recipe you made, do they like this color paint for the living room, does this new shirt make you look fat?, etc. Do you always get the truth… maybe not? In fact, I recently saw this post on Facebook that said, let me know if you want to vent or you really want advice. It’s an honest question too because sometimes people just want validation and they really don’t want your opinion.
When it comes to getting sincere feedback at work, it can be even harder. Why? Well, to be honest, some people just don’t care to give you honest feedback. Some people don’t like confrontation, so they say great job regardless. There are others who are jealous and want you to fail, so they give you bad advice or won’t point out mistakes. Either way, it’s not sincere and it’s not helping.
People always telling you that you are doing a great job is nice to hear, but it’s really not effective and it’s completely unhelpful for growth and development.
In order to improve at anything in life, you need three things:
- A clear goal
- A genuine desire to achieve that goal
- Feedback that indicates what they are doing well and what they are not doing well
Not only is sincere feedback hard to come by, but low-quality feedback is not useful, positive feedback is undervalued, and negative feedback delivered unskillfully can actually cause physical pain. When delivered thoughtfully, however, sincere feedback can provide you with actionable data needed to become more effective.
If you make strides towards receiving sincere feedback, try these steps:
Create a Safe Environment for Sharing. You can do this by showing your peers that honesty doesn’t have repercussions. Be curious about them and ask them questions, show vulnerability, and let them know you want to learn. Acknowledge your weaknesses or mistakes – we are all human.
Be Skillful. Just asking for feedback rarely results in useful information. Try asking more specific questions like “Was I talking too fast”, “Do I talk over people or cut them off”, “You know Jason well, how can I better connect with him” – this helps people break down feedback into bite-size pieces.
Ask for the Good and Bad. When you only hear the good or only the bad, you miss out on a lot of specific information that’s useful. If you just hear the bad, you won’t know the good things you do and risk making changes to those when you shouldn’t. If you just hear the good, you won’t know what bad stuff to fix – you need both for feedback to work. Also, just getting praise does not give you enough information to understand what you are doing effectively – “great job” doesn’t say the same thing as “Hey, your slides are kick-ass, but you should probably just slow down your presentation by 5 seconds”.
Be Receptive and Attentive. When getting feedback, focus on the person giving it so they know you are listening and value their opinion. Even if you disagree with some feedback, don’t challenge or debate them, or you may decrease the likelihood of that person offering you feedback in the future.
Say Thank You. Even if it wasn’t the most helpful information, always say thank you. The person giving you feedback likely spent a good amount of time considering your performance and how to thoughtfully discuss it with you.
Evaluate, Plan, and Act. Review all the data, consider what parts to work on, what parts to disregard and plan to fix what needs fixing. Pick one or two capabilities you want to improve, get really clear about what “improved” looks like, and then map out the action steps that you need to take. If you struggle with the action part – check out this blog.
People who are great leaders are great listeners and great learners. They are always looking for more information and ways to improve themselves. Getting and learning from feedback isn’t always easy, but it is necessary if you want to become better.