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Feedback is a Gift – Only if it’s Wrapped Properly

Feedback is a gift.

…that keeps on giving.

This was pounded into my brain while getting indoctrinated into the world of MBA business at Stanford.

“you have to remain open to feedback to improve and grow.”

At the end of my time on the sunny campus in Palo Alto, my classmates and I had become a bunch of “not-so-secret” santas, going around dropping unexpected gifts on one another.

Some gifts were properly packaged with nice ribbons too. 

Others were in torn boxes, thrown across the lawn like a mail delivery person that’s too lazy to make it to the front porch.

Feedback can either be constructive or a ticking time-bomb for your growth and relationships.

Your main growth tool

Growth comes through deliberate practice. 

This isn’t possible without a monitoring system and feedback.

I have received numerous amounts of feedback on my writing and business that has led to best-selling books, bad moods, awards, and business growth. 

Feedback in the form of improvement points, testimonials, “word of mouth”, can be difficult to get while head down in the process. But without any of it, I would not be able to grow.

A lot of us are not open to feedback. People see it as criticism.

Most don’t want to shatter the concept of self cooked up in their minds.

Not only do we not want to receive feedback, we despise giving it.

Saying things like: 

“I don’t have time to spare for your feedback”
“I don’t want to say anything that will hurt you”
“People say I’m too critical so I’d rather not say anything.”

What we are left with is a bunch of working zombies roaming the streets, reciting to ourselves: “I must be doing great. Yes I know. Maybe not. No one has said anything. I’m sure I’m doing swell.” 

Living in a comfortable silo with a hardened exterior, until one day – PUCKK!!! – an unexpected rock, in the form of ‘harsh’ words, flings and shatters your perception.

Don’t wait for that rock. 

Don’t let your unmonitored thoughts build a false ego-shield that limits you. Be active and deliberate in your development.

It’s hard to know if you are improving without feedback. It’s difficult to help people you care about without giving constructive gifts.

Word of mouth is the best way to grow

Giving and receiving constructive feedback is what we all need.

As a knowledge worker, one of the main tools you bring to the table are the intangibles – your communication, design, and problem-solving skills. 

It is challenging to assess these skills. Feedback is the main tool to help you become a better implementer. 

When you become better at ‘doing’ feedback, you’ll fast track your growth and that of the people you care about. 

Here are just a few tips on giving and receiving feedback:

Giving Feedback

Learning how to have difficult conversations is one of the biggest things you can do to improve your life.

“A recent Gallup survey found that only 26% of employees strongly agree that the feedback they get actually improves their work”

~ LeeAnn Renniger, Cognitive psychologist

Most people fall into one of two camps when giving feedback:

  • Camp 1: The feedback is so soft and disguised that the person does not even realize that you are giving feedback.
  • Camp 2: The feedback is too direct and destructive that the person on the receiving end becomes so defensive to hear what’s being said. The amygdala in their brain gets flooded with a need for action – flight, fight, freeze, or f*#% you.

    Your words just breeze over their heads. Quite uncomfortable, now you both have to walk around eggshells too.

To give good and actionable feedback, you can use this four-point system:

1. Start with a question: 

Let the person know what’s coming. 

“Do you have 4 minutes to talk about how the call went?” 

The person’s answer gives them autonomy. Going into the conversation, knowing that something is coming.

2. Be specific:

Make it laser-sharp. 

General feedback like “you are usually defensive” or “you are not reliable” or “what you did there was great” doesn’t really help. 

They just blur up the conversation. 

Be more specific “you said you’d send the email 1 hour ago and it still isn’t out.” or “you sent that project scope a lot sooner than the deadline. thanks.”

Point to something specific so that the feedback can be concrete.

3. Discuss impact: 

Talk about how the person’s action impacted you. 

“When you didn’t send that on time, I couldn’t get the deliverable to the client”
“Because you sent out the project scope earlier, it freed up the team’s weekend.”

That allows the person to contextualize the impact of their actions.

4. Ask a question: 

End with a question.

“What do you think?” 

That allows the person to think of growth opportunities themselves.

Unless you just want compliance, end it with an open-ended question to foster dialogue.

Receiving Feedback

It’s not just a one-way street my friend. Oh No! 

The feedback toolbox is double-pronged. Learning how to receive feedback is part of the game.

What did that wise person say again? 

“If you can’t handle the heat, then don’t step in the kitchen” 

If you want to get better at giving feedback, be open to receiving it. 

There is no activity that we engage in that we are perfect at. There is always room for growth and feedback can supercharge that.

Here’s another four-point system to receive feedback:

5. Listen (It’s not personal)

Receiving feedback can threaten your sense of self. 

We put higher walls up for activities we believe we should be capable of doing.

Imagine you were an investor.

You might not care as much about feedback on your singing skills. However, feedback on your decision-making skills – you might cancel the person faster than a vegetarian living in Texas.

We put guards up for the things we care about. Remember, your self-worth is not attached to your ability to perform. 

Once feedback starts coming and you find yourself getting defensive, breathe, take a step back, and just listen.

6. Ask for it: 

You don’t have to wait for someone to give you feedback. 

Nope! Take an active role. 

Set your own timeline on when to receive feedback. Maybe every two months or after every project is completed. 

It shows that you are actively seeking growth. You’ll also be prepared to get the feedback, instead of dreading the doomsday “do you have a quick moment?” question.

7. Take Accountability: 

Know what you are signing up for.

When you receive feedback, know it can lead to your growth and that’s what you need.

Allow the feedback to do its work. 

It’s not the time to start throwing things back 

“but you do the same thing”
“you can improve on that yourself”

You can use the four-point system above to give feedback at another time. This is the time for receiving your gifts.

8. Clarify: 

We are all humans at the end of the day. 

Sometimes the person giving feedback is not the most aware. 

They might just be straight up haters, trying to tear you down.

If the feedback is vague, you can always clarify. 

Let them finish, then ask:
“How am I supposed to interpret what you just said?”

It allows them to repeat what they said, think about it, and perhaps rephrase it to make it more actionable.

If the feedback is still wishy-washy, ask questions:

“Do you mind being specific?”
“Can you give me an example?”
“If you don’t mind me asking, how did that impact you?”

Remember, the best feedback results in dialogue. 

Be open to the feedback but make sure you clarify so you’re only moving in the direction of growth.

Final Thought

Words are powerful. They can give or take away from people. 

Feedback can be a gift or a bump in the road towards a strained relationship.

Regardless, we need feedback systems to monitor growth for ourselves and others.

Give constructive feedback by prepping the conversation, being specific, discussing impact, and keeping the dialogue going with an open-ended question.

Get feedback by listening, actively seeking it, taking accountability, and clarifying to weed out the helpers from the haters.

What areas of your life are you seeking growth in? 

Feedback is a gift for your growth, but it depends on how it’s wrapped, packaged, and delivered.

Your’s truly,

P.S. I finally hit double-digits for my letters to you, last week. (This is #11)

My goal is to use these weekly letters to improve my writing and synthesize ideas I’m picking up from my readings this year.

I would love to get some feedback from you on my letters so far. 

If you have 2 more minutes to spare, can you kindly fill out this short 5-question feedback form. It will really help me improve. Thanks.

Who is Nifemi?

Hey I’m Nifemi of NapoRepublic

I help busy people fit in a creative practice to bring to bring order to their reality and help them live a more meaningful life through writing and reflection.

Sculpt your story

Know thyself, build a second brain, and unleash your creativity with writing. All in one journaling, note-taking, and dots-connection method that fits into your busy life.