Overcoming Feedback Fears

"Successful people only have two problems with negative feedback. However, they are big problems: (a) they don't want to hear it from us and (b) we don't want to give it to them" writes author and feedback coach Marshall Goldsmith.

From personal observation and experience, I know this to be true. Take marriage, for example. Even in a good relationship, with partners who want to make their marriage better, negative feedback is not easy to hear. It’s common to shut down, ignore the situation, avoid the confrontation, or become defensive. Not one of these responses helps to make the marriage better. They may even make it worse!

So, what is the best way to solicit helpful feedback? Any relationship—be it marriage, friendship, parent—child, coworkers, or mentors—needs this healthy feedback if growth is desired. Marshall also states, "In soliciting feedback for yourself, the only question that works—the only one—must be phrased like this: 'How can I do better?' "

Approaching feedback and criticism in this way brings the focus to the future and gives hope. It conveys that I already know my failures, I feel bad about them, and I want to do better. When asked this way the answers that come are ones I can act on in practical ways. Put simply: Tell me how to improve and I'll work on it!

This future-thinking, hopeful approach works when offering other forms of feedback. I remember when I was coaching basketball, I didn’t approach a player and say “Let me tell you what you did wrong.” Rather, I asked, “Would you like to know how you can improve your game?” That young player took my advice and I got the results I was looking for. I became a better coach and he became a better player.

Positive feedback—criticism approached with hope and the future in mind—does just that. It can grow individuals and relationships alike. Rather than starting arguments, you can move the relationship forward.

What relationships could benefit from you asking, “How can I do better?” What relationship could benefit from a dose of positive feedback?

Bob Reusser directs the Nav Encore Mission of The Navigators. You can learn more about his ministry here.

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