Changing Your Relationship with “Feedback”
How would your life change if your orientation to feedback did? That’s the question I was invited to ask myself, and now I’d like to challenge all of you to do the same.
Let’s start with a dive into feedback. What is it and why the heck am I writing about it? Merriam-Webster defines it as:
Whether it’s machine, human, music, speech, or sound, what all these definitions have in common is that there is a result of inputs and outputs. For me, I understand feedback as information from internal or external sources that indicates how you are showing up for yourself and others. It’s how you perceive yourself and how you are perceived in the world.
Every thought, feeling, idea, and experience we have is feedback, giving us information about our blind spots. Like a computer, feedback is constantly running in you and through you, doing a loop and changing how you experience the world. In and out. Stimulus, then response, and back again. The voice that’s running in your subconscious on auto-background refresh like an app on your phone is feedback. Are you paying attention? And more, if you are, what are you choosing to do with what those inputs are trying to tell you?
Throughout my life I have had a tenuous relationship with feedback. I’ve always preferred to receive it versus give it, even when I didn’t like or agree with what others were telling me, but neither side has ever been easy for me. A lot of my hesitation to give is because I’ve been afraid of people’s emotional responses to me communicating honestly and openly my needs, opinions, and perception of them. My reluctance to receive stems from perfectionism and denial. So this past weekend, I finally jumped into the fire to challenge my fears through the leadership program I’m immersed in; I became a feedback-seeking/giving maniac to better understand how others are experiencing me and what it feels like to help others by giving feedback.
I start by asking myself a lot of questions. And I try to answer those questions by, as Rainier Marie Rilke wrote, “living into the answers,” using the world around me as my own laboratory. I sought feedback from about 20 people — friends, family, co-workers, my partner in life; no one was off-limits. I received a lot of input that in the past would’ve crushed me, since much of it came from people I really love and care about. Here are some examples:
- Impatient, lacking compassion for others, obsessive perfectionist, intimidating
- Coward, scared, stuck in the past, closed heart, closed off to the world, self-isolated, angry
- Walled off, robot, guarded, shut down, unable to speak about your feelings
- Copying/stealing work from others, lack of identity, confused about many aspects of life, too serious/lacking joy or play, resentful
You might be thinking, “why would he post all of this “negative” feedback publicly?” Or maybe, “what would the people closest to me have to say about me when given the right of unconditional passage?” When I initially received a lot of this feedback, it hurt, made me sick to my stomach. Some of it made me feel angry, defensive (“you don’t really know me”, “I’m not that way anymore”, “it was just that one time”, “this person did that so it wasn’t my fault”, “my partner just broke up with me and I wasn’t myself”, “yea but….”). But then I reminded myself that the people who gave me this feedback love and care about me. That I gave them the right of passage to be unabashedly honest about how those outputs may be limiting me. And that the feedback is not about me, it’s about some of the behavior patterns and tendencies that show up when I am not my best self. With this powerful realization, I have shifted my perspective to gratitude. I am GRATEFUL to the people who love me enough to be courageous and honest with me in how I’m showing up.
I was inspired to write this because my maniacal pursuit to understand how the world experiences me has led to some incredible realizations that have already changed my life. I believe these realizations and questions are applicable and useful to just about anyone breathing on this planet:
- It’s not about YOU, it’s about the behavior patterns you’ve developed that are limiting you
- We avoid GIVING FEEDBACK because we’re afraid of how someone may respond to us telling the truth; by holding it in, we build and carry resentment
- When the feedback hits deeply, most of us become defensive or go into denial; this feedback is usually THE MOST truthful and we should pay attention very closely if we respond that way
- It is MOST DIFFICULT to give feedback to the people WE CARE ABOUT THE MOST AND those are the people we usually need to be giving/receiving the most feedback to/from
- By not giving feedback to people we care about, we are ripping them off and not supporting them in showing up as their best selves in life
- What walls have you built inside you that prevent others from being able to communicate honestly about how they are experiencing you?
- Do you respond aggressively, angrily, or emotionally when your spouse, best friend, business partner, brother, sister give you feedback? If yes, what does that say about you AND what they are trying to tell you?
- If you change your perspective to giving and receiving feedback from a place of LOVE instead of from a state of confrontation or criticism, it will change your life
- If you let go of trying to prove that you’re right and focus on hearing the messages from the universe, you will find unlimited joy and freedom because being right is overrated
- What a RELIEF it is to know at least some of what people really think about me and to not attach to any of it (regardless if it’s “negative” or “positive”)
I hope some of this resonates with you and can inspire you to have some of those “clearing conversations” with the people in your life who you need to come clean with. You are not doing anyone any favors by waiting or holding onto it, it’s quite the opposite in my opinion.
I hope that you can set boundaries where necessary. That you can be honest and live according to your true values. I challenge you to become more curious in seeking feedback if you want to become unstoppable. Because this is one of the things you have control of that can help to manage your blind spots. And perhaps most importantly, that you can make a commitment to show up better every day once you’ve been blessed enough to have people in your life who care enough about you to shine a light on the areas of your life that are limiting your potential, if you let them.
Signing this letter with LOVE as a reminder that every time you give or receive feedback, it is in your power to choose how you perceive it.