About a year ago, I wrote a post about the value of getting feedback from others. In it I wrote:
I value the perspectives of others, but I think there are some important rules to keep in mind. Again, this is advice that I need to remember as much as I want you to consider.
Only ask for the outside perspective of somebody you trust to have your best interest in mind. If you’re unsure of whether a particular shirt in a store looks good on you, ask a friend, not the sales clerk.
Ignore unsolicited feedback from anyone who you don’t generally trust to have your best interest in mind, unless it relates to behaviour that they feel is hurting others, including the person giving said feedback.
Only ask for somebody else’s perspective about something you’re doing or a decision you’re trying to make if you really want to hear the answer and you’ll consider the feedback. Chris Anderson, the head of the TED organization reminded me of this via his book TED Talks, which I’m currently reading. If you aren’t even going to consider anything negative they have to say because your mind is already set, don’t waste their time. Asking for somebody’s feedback shouldn’t be just to stroke your ego.
These are all important rules to follow and I think that I’m doing a lot better at it. I still struggle when somebody points out something that I’m doing wrong, while ignoring that they do the same thing. Sometimes I’m in danger of putting a hole through my tongue from biting it, while others I’m ashamed of how biting my response can be. I need to find a good middle ground.
I’ve been working on taking failures as learning experiences, chances to grow, much more than I used to. This often requires that I get feedback or advice from others about how I might do better in the future, but, as Chris Anderson pointed out, if I’m not going to listen to the feedback and give it careful consideration then I’m wasting both the other person and my time.
In the past, I often got defensive when somebody pointed out something I did wrong, which left me with very little opportunity for improving at it. If I really want to improve at something I have to be open to hearing, and thinking about, the areas that I can improve on. Is there a new skill I need to learn? Does my current technique need some serious work? Am I on to something, but a small tweak would make it great?
My friend Jen kindly sends me notes when she spots typos in my posts, and I’m grateful that she does because then I can fix them. I welcome her corrections. I roll my eyes at my own mistakes, but I’m happy that she provides me this feedback. I know that she’s trying to help me and wants me to be successful. Recognizing that helps me to accept her feedback.
Without admitting that I have room to grow, then I can’t grow. As the saying goes (and has been misattributed to Albert Einstein for many years), “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity”, which I obviously want to avoid.
Featured image courtesy of my friend Alan Levine under a CC-BY license.