Managing Feedback Gracefully: A Key Skill in the Positive Use of Power

Woman showing her coworker feedback on a computer screenTake a moment to notice what your response is when you hear someone say, “I have some feedback for you.”

Some people feel curious, excited, appreciated, and open to an opportunity to grow and become more effective. That’s the way we’d like it to be, of course. But for most people, the response is to tighten up, feel defensive, and become frightened of being hurt or disempowered.

When you are in the position of giving feedback, the felt-experience can be just as varied. Some people feel connected, compassionate, and effective. But many others experience giving feedback as a burden or worry that it will cause harm to the other person or to the relationship.

Why Is Feedback Challenging?

Giving and receiving feedback can be tough and challenging, but in cultivating a positive use of power, it is one of the most important skills to develop. Feedback is simply information you get about yourself from others or from your own self-awareness. This information helps you understand and refine your impact on others or a job you are doing.

For many people, feedback carries a huge charge, because most of us have felt hurt by unskillful feedback.

For many people, feedback carries a huge charge, because most of us have felt hurt by unskillful feedback. Dr. Amanda Aguilera, administrative director of the Right Use of Power Institute, adds another feedback challenge: “Although we all have both desire for learning and longing for belonging and acceptance, the need for acceptance is stronger. So, if we feel our acceptance is at risk, we will tend to avoid giving feedback and/or block receiving it.”

In our Right Use of Power trainings, we reframe feedback as an “investment” in relationship. This focus can move the feedback process from one that risks acceptance and belonging to one that can actually help deepen and strengthen the relationship. It empowers “feedback givers” to be more authentic, less anxious, and confident they are offering something of value to the other. Seeing feedback as an investment supports healthy relationships.

The feedback process can be made more manageable by separating it into four aspects.

4 Aspects of the Feedback Process

1. Asking for feedback

We can be proactive by asking for feedback. In this way, we can control the timing and manner of feedback in both personal and workplace relationships. Exercise your curiosity and openness to specific feedback by trying questions like:

  • “How clear was my explanation? Can you suggest any changes?”
  • “This was a challenging conversation. Did you feel I was being defensive?”
  • “I’m interested in how you experience my use of my power.”

2. Receiving feedback

Here’s another place where we can have more control. We can help ourselves receive feedback well by how we set it up. Try:

  • “This is not a good time for me. Can we set up a different time?”
  • “Please slow down. I need to take a minute to reflect on what you said.”
  • “It would help me if you could give me a specific example.”
  • “Actually, I only feel available for positive feedback right now.”

3. Giving feedback

There is an art to giving feedback. We want to give feedback in the form in which it can be best heard. Consider five kinds of input:

  1. Appreciating feedback: It communicates “Thanks,” but also conveys, “I see you,” and “You matter to me.” We never outgrow, and don’t need to outgrow, our need for acknowledgement.
  2. Coaching feedback: This focus is aimed at trying to help someone learn, grow, or change to be more heartful, skillful, or effective. Coaching requires skill and sensitivity.
  3. Evaluating feedback: This is a responsibility belonging to a role of authority. Evaluation tells you where you stand. It’s a performance review. It could also be used in personal relationships to review and then explore how the relationship is going.
  4. Observing feedback: For example, “This is what I see from my perspective.”
  5. Impacting feedback: Here’s where you can describe how you have been affected by the other person.

4. Using feedback

Because feedback comes through another person, it will always contain a personal bias. This doesn’t mean the feedback is not useful, because it describes the impact you are having on another individual.

It is useful to know whether your impact matches up with your intention. However, as the owner of your power, you can self-reflect and decide how you want to use whatever feedback you get. My suggestion is that you “don’t take everything personally, and don’t take nothing personally.” Look for the gem of truth and “with a breath of kindness, blow the chaff away.”

Developing your skill at asking for, receiving, giving, and using feedback will be a booster rocket to your effectiveness in enjoying power-positive relationships.

References:

  1. Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014, March 4). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well. New York City, New York: Viking Press.
  2. Workshops & training. (n.d.). Right Use of Power Institute. Retrieved from http://www.rightuseofpower.org/training.html

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