In last week’s blog I shared an interview with the amazing TEDx speaker Suzy Miller, who helps people navigate the stormy waters of divorce and enter the calm harbour of communication!
One of the things she mentioned during our conversation was that the feedback I had given her immediately allowed her to understand what needed to be changed and to go ahead and easily do that. The speech she gave at TEDxAinleyTopWomen2019 was incredible and more importantly – she was very happy with it. She owned it. And that is the power of positive feedback.
It wasn’t until I started down this path of personal development and running my own business that I realised the power of feedback – for good or otherwise!
If only we could teach our children that everything is feedback and nothing is FACT.
You see the power of feedback can also be very negative and very destructive, especially if we see it (feedback) as fact.
As a child – were you ever told – either directly or subtly – that you were stupid, or not good at something?
The education system has a lot to answer for. We judge children by a certain criteria – and if they don’t meet those criteria, they are often made to feel terrible. When I was at school, they used to read out test results from the lowest up. Imagine how you would feel (or maybe like me – you don’t have to imagine, but just remember) if you were the kid whose name was read out first.
“And at the bottom with a measly 15 out of 50 is…YOUR NAME”.
Well, she may not have said it exactly like that. But as a kid – that’s what you hear, isn’t it? And when you go home and tell your Mum or Dad, you might get a,
“Why did you get such a bad mark?”, or “Never mind, I was never very good at Maths either”, or “Well, at least you are good at English/PE/Art…”
None of those responses are helpful and all of them reinforce the fact that you are not good at maths – or whatever subject. But actually, isn’t that a load of bollocks?
What is probably true is that the teacher wasn’t’ very good. It is easy to teach a subject to someone who is naturally good at or interested in that subject. But if for whatever reason, you have not been engaged with a subject from the get-go, you might be harder to teach. Well, that is the teacher’s problem, not yours!
It might be that you just are not interested in X subject. And so what? Who said you had to be? If we were all interested in the same stuff it would be a pretty boring world. Perhaps you couldn’t see the point of it at the time, but if you learned it now it would be a different story.
The fact is though, that you – as a child – took that feedback in as THE TRUTH. “I am no good at X”. And you have carried that all your life. And it just isn’t true. It is a story someone once told you and now you tell yourself.
Proper feedback might have been –
“You got 15 right, and some others nearly right, which means you CAN do maths, well done! And I can see from your answers that you just need to X, and you will find the other answers.”
That’s probably more like the truth. And it’s certainly more helpful.
You see, when you can give input without judgement, then feedback is a wonderful tool. If you can receive it without defensiveness or justifying what you did and why you did it, then it is an even more wonderful tool. It is not surprising that most people don’t take feedback well – it is because they have received bad feedback in the past and so see every bit of feedback as ‘criticism’, and / or it is the problem of the person giving the feedback. By which I mean – they aren’t good at giving it!
If our teachers, parents, and inner critics could have just stood back a bit and said…
“I can really see why you did that, or how you came to that conclusion and I love it. Would you like some ideas on how it could be even better?”
…then perhaps we would all be better at giving and receiving feedback.
So – the next time you have something important to do – whether that be speaking in public or presenting at work – firstly give yourself a break. It isn’t as bad as you think – in fact it is probably a lot better than you think. But if you want to make it better – pick someone who knows how to give positive feedback and can shortcut your learning curve and steer you quickly to the truth.