It can be tough hearing that you did something wrong. And it can be equally hard being the person that has to tell someone they did something wrong. We are all conditioned to prefer saying and hearing the good things about ourselves. Giving and receiving compliments just feels amazing, so of course we’d rather choose this line of conversation over those super awkward corrective chats. But here’s the thing. Nobody is perfect. None of us are able to effortlessly sail through every aspect of our entire lives without making a single mistake. While we are often able to identify ourselves that we’ve erred at something, there will always be those occasions where we find ourselves oblivious to this fact. The only way we are able to find out, is if someone gives us feedback.
So, why is this important? It’s important because if we have no idea we’ve done something wrong, we miss out on a crucial opportunity to fix it. To learn. To grow. To become even better than we are. It’s a constant part of the human condition to seek to improve ourselves and the simple fact is that this is impossible without feedback. Are you starting to see how being given feedback is like being handed a wonderful gift yet?
If not, allow me to elaborate. Sometimes the hardest feedback to get is when we think we are really great at something. Say for example, writing. As a freelance writer, I do this for a living. So, I like to think I’m pretty skilled at it. Getting praise from a client when I submit a piece that they absolutely love is one of the best feelings in the world. But you know what I’ve come to love even more? Good feedback. Because I know when I receive this incredible gift and put it to good use, my writing gets even better.
I won’t lie to you. The first time I received, what at that time I considered criticism, of a piece I’d written, it was hard. I thought I had done an amazing job, I’d completed my research, written it up beautifully, done the standard checks for plagiarism (a routine every writer should follow, you’d be amazed how often you can plagiarise accidentally…) and readability and all came back perfect. So, when the client told me they wanted me to make a few changes, I was devasted. Angry. Even hurt. Of course, I remained completely professional and made all the changes they requested with a smile and my standard positive and enthusiastic demeanour. And you know what? When I resubmitted the piece and they were happy with it, wow did I feel great.
If that client had not given me that feedback, I would have ended up giving them something they were not happy with. I would have ultimately provided a poor service to this person. And I would have missed out on this crucial opportunity to become even better at writing. See, feedback is a gift.
Now keeping this in your head, think about all those times you chose not to give someone feedback. You stayed quiet while your friend sat there talking with his mouth open and making everyone else at the table want to retch. That girl said or did something that caused your feelings toward her to change so one day you just stopped messaging her back. Your steak at that restaurant was overcooked but you just sat there and picked at it anyway. Because of your silence and inaction, your friend has the reputation for being a pig, that girl will spend the rest of her life never knowing where she stands or what she did wrong and that chef will keep right on overcooking steaks. I for one, feel sorry for these people. Because they’ve been denied an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and are therefore doomed to repeat them. Seems kind of cruel doesn’t it? Kind of like, they’ve been denied an absolutely incredible gift? I can practically feel you guys starting to really get my point now.
Which brings me to another very important point that must be said. Feedback is not criticism. Feedback is offering meaningful suggestions for improvement, citing specific examples and giving the other person something to work with to be able to put to use for the betterment of themselves and those around them. Criticism is just putting someone down. And that is never ok.
So next time someone gives you feedback, take it with its intended spirit, as a beautiful gift. See it as an opportunity to learn and grow. And when giving feedback, remember you are handing this person a gift. So be kind about it. Gently give it to them instead of throwing it in their face. If you can master the art of differentiating between criticism and feedback, you’ll soon find yourself enjoying feedback as much as I do. And you’ll feel yourself becoming better every day.