A few years ago, I was called into “the boss’ office” hours after a meeting. I felt “that cringe”! My inner voice became wild: “Oh no, what did I do? Was it that meeting? I know I’m not going to get fired but ugh! I don’t know. Did I hurt or let down my team in some way?…” I had a big lump in my throat that I couldn’t swallow. All the time my mind was racing, I kept a smile on my face and continued to serve the clients in front of me until it was time to go to meet with my supervisors. How many of you have felt like this?
I trusted my supervisors had my best interests at heart. I wasn’t afraid of them, yet I found myself shaking. When they gave me the feedback, my inner voice raced again, “Did I really do that? How could I? That wasn’t my intention. It was supposed to be inspiring and uplifting, not this. OK, slow down! What happened?” Then I spoke, “I’m so sorry, that was not my intention.” My supervisors knew that about me.
Afterwards, I thought about the information I had just received and decided there was some validity to it since all three of my supervisors felt the same way. I learned something about myself and identified ways I can prevent it from happening again.
Why is it so difficult for us to receive feedback? It could be because the person giving the feedback is ineffective at providing it. In my story, this certainly wasn’t the case. I’m going to jump out on a limb and make a bold statement. We actually do NOT have difficulty receiving feedback MOST of the time. We receive feedback from a multitude of sources. Our body tells us we are cold; we shiver. Our taste buds tell us that food was delicious. We try a new soil mixture in our garden, the plants grow or they don’t. We stay out in the sun too long, we get burned. And so on…
Feedback becomes difficult when we let our thinking get in the way and this is usually due to past experiences. The cycle of negative thinking begins…I dislike what I did…I feel useless…others think I’m incompetent…I’m not any good at my job (or whatever)…I could get fired…I dislike feedback because I feel so bad afterwards…you know what your inner voice does…STOP!
What is feedback? It is data. We have the power to choose what to do with it. How can we disconnect the feelings we attach to it? In my story, did you catch when I stopped my pattern? What did I do? I said to myself “Slow down! What happened?” and stopped thinking in the future and past tense. I got out of my emotional head and accepted the feedback as information in the present moment. Then I decided what to do with it.
Here are some tips to remember when receiving feedback. I call it my “Be GLAD for Feedback Formula”.
- Grasp the present. Slow down and stop your pattern of racing thoughts.
- Look for the facts. Stick with facts to help let go of your emotion. Ask yourself “What happened?”, “Where is this person coming from?” or “What’s important?”
- Accept feedback as information. What the other person is sharing is information experienced through their personal filters. Whether it is delivered in an effective way or not, you may want to learn something from it, or not. Ask “What are my options of what to do with this information?” or “What is the lesson I may want/need to learn here?”
- Decide what to do with the information. You have a choice, consider your options and ask “What is going to make a difference for me in how I want to show up?”
With the GLAD Formula, receiving feedback becomes easier with practice. I have also found it helpful for processing feedback when it comes from a not-so-effective source.
What difference could using the GLAD Formula make in your life?
By Adonica Sweet, PCC, CEC