Feedback and an opportunity to learn

Whenever we share to others our idea, we ask them to debug it for us. They may or may not return a feedback.

I had a recent experience in receiving feedback on my work. It happened during one of the sessions, in the in-person check-in with the learning circle i am part of.

It had me reflecting on the incident, and thought it be useful to unpack. As with any feedback, when receiving, i often experience a level of emotional distress. And beyond this initial reaction, my analytical mind spends a degree of effort trying to make sense of it. I find that it takes some time, though often in minutes, before my analysis is able to keep up.

It helps to know that feedback is data, offered by another person, and is formed by the person’s bias, knowledge, and intent. The feedback when received, likewise is influenced by our own. We can use these factors, so we may receive feedback well.

I believe, we will always experience a level of painful emotion, for feedback we do not expect, and for the ones we consider as negative. It is good to allow this pain to happen, embrace, and then let it go. After which, deconstruct and refactor the feedback, based on what we intend to use it for. Then, if desired, formulate a response for the source to process.

Sometimes, our bias kicks-in, and makes us believe that the giver is intent to attack us. This happens often, if the intent was not known ahead. It is good to be mindful of this, and to clarify intent, before accepting the feedback. We can probably ignore one, if we do not know its intent.

On the other side, the giver is also exposed to criticism, since a feedback may be based on flawed or incomplete information. This risk is often the reason why we do not to give feedback, of course, in addition to the cost of maintaining our position. Being clear in our intent, helps justify the risk and cost of giving feedback.

A positive feedback, may not need to specify intent, since we can assume it is given to help us. However, for a negative, an intent should be known ahead. This will prime the receiver and allows time to prepare the mind. It may happen, that the receiver is not intent to accept, and the feedback may not be given. However, for the ones who are open, it makes for a good fertilizer for feedback to take root.

I am grateful for any feedback i receive, no matter the nature, since i can know how others responds to what i put out. Without it, i can only rely on my own perception, and though it may give me comfort, i worry if it reflects reality. I do not always seek feedback, but i find it useful, so i always keep an open mind in case one is given. Anyway, I can always ignore, if i find no use of it.

Knowing intent, and understanding factors such as bias and knowledge, can help to create a meaningful exchange of feedback between people. I am glad to have experienced it with the learning circle, since my mind was in learning mode, so it allowed me to learn from incident.

It is useful to note, that the environment, where it happened also contributed to the quality of the exchange. And it helped, that i know the source of the feedback, a friend, and i have an idea of my friend’s knowledge and biases, as well as the intent of the session we are in.

Feedback is an important data, that we should seek for what we think and what we do. Without it, we can only know what we know, or only what we have experienced. And that is a limited field to learn from.

One last thing to consider is the realtime nature of the exchange. It is good to be mindful to let our minds process the feedback. It is ok, to leave a pause, or to take a deep breath before responding. Or, better, to delay in responding by asking clarifying questions, which gives our minds time to process, and potentially gather more data.