The two sides of feedback
Let there be no doubt about this – Feedback IS useful. ANY and ALL feedback is useful. There is no doubt at all about that. And there are multiple ways in which feedback is given and received. The most important thing is the action that the recipient takes after receiving feedback.
Feedback is not only when there is a serious debate on actions, behaviours, attitudes and the like. It is used when one responds to their name being called out. So, it is integral to our ability to communicate, learn, and therefore becoming better than we were.
This article is intentionally written with a fair degree of detail, and maybe even repetitive statements at many places. And that again, is intentional. There are 2 aspects to feedback – receiving and giving. The core principles of both have been encapsulated in the two pictures here in this article. If one feels they are already very good at both receiving and giving feedback, it might still be useful to read the article. This is by no means the last word on feedback – however, it contains much knowledge obtained from experts and excellent communicators.
This most likely will reiterate one’s existing knowledge, and maybe even add to it. One will not lose anything by reading it. As Ken Blanchard says, “when you ask for something, you either break-even or make a profit.” Similarly, if by reading this article you do not learn anything new, you have broken even. And if you find even a small thing you can learn, you have made a profit.
One will not lose anything by reading it – as Ken Blanchard says, “one either breaks even or make a profit.” If they do not learn anything new, they have broken even. And if they find even a small thing they can learn, they have made a profit.
Why is feedback useful?
Humans have learnt to walk, entirely thanks to feedback that gravity gives. I am aware that I need to be sensitive to those who are not physically able to walk for various reasons. They could be challenged in a variety of ways, that makes it not possible for them to walk. This example is used in a specific context and as with any statement, being quoted out of context will give it a different hue. The intent is not to be disrespectful, dismissive or inconsiderate of those who are physically challenged and cannot walk on their own. The example of walking could be replaced with any form of learning. Feedback is an integral part of the learning process and hence I call attention to it here.
The key to walking is balance. And, then to move along with balancing. And gravity being gravity, gives feedback instantly as soon as we go “out of balance.” This feedback, and the corrections made in response, is what makes walking possible. We fell down and hurt ourselves, sometimes even badly, as we attempted to walk. And yet, while the falls might have been painful temporarily, all those falls helped us learn the ability to walk properly.
At that time, we did not complain about “gravity” being opinionated or partial or biased in its giving feedback to us. Whether we like it or not, it is this feedback that made it possible for us to walk. And gravity gives feedback without fear or favour. Whether one is young, old, able, infirm, with or without sight, sober or otherwise, gravity gives feedback. Nothing matters to gravity in giving feedback - species, race, caste, creed, religion, or any such thing at all – gravity just keeps giving feedback. Those who respect this feedback from gravity, learn, and then do things that help them become better. If only to ensure that they do not fall and hurt themselves again. Surely, feedback is important and integral to the learning process.
That’s why feedback is very useful. Regardless of the reasons that someone gives feedback it is best to receive it at the least. More on the other perspectives on feedback at a different place in this article.
Whatever one is good at is because of timely and appropriate action taken based on feedback received. To grow on a continuous basis we need to obtain periodic feedback and act on it. Stefan Einhorn in his book, “The Art of being kind” says, “There are no perfect people, and we should be on our guard against those who believe themselves to be faultless. The day we think we are our own ideal is the day we must start again from scratch. Being a thoroughly good person is a mirage - we may well strive for it, but, like seeking the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, we will never reach it. But we can decide to become better people, in the knowledge that we will never be perfect. And, in the end, all we can do is our best.”
“We should be on our guard against those who believe themselves to be faultless. The day we think we are our own ideal is the day we must start again from scratch.” – Stefan Einhorn
Listening to, introspecting on, and taking action on feedback is something that each and every one of us will do well to practice. And for that, we also need people who will give us feedback. And because of how much we grow through this process, it is our duty also to do our bit in terms of giving feedback to others and help them grow. Especially to those we care about. And some thoughts on how to receive and give feedback, in an inspiring manner, is the aim of this article.