ALL of Us Can Get Better at This!

Accountability Empathy Growth mindset



Key Point: We all spend time suffering unnecessarily (although understandably), because most of us have such a hard time receiving and giving feedback. Families and organizations swirl in dysfunction based on this reality. 

Just the other day, I was talking to someone about giving important feedback to another. These two people care deeply for each other. Frankly, the person who could benefit from the insight has a blind spot. This individual (feedback receiver) literally can’t see, or is unaware of certain behavior. The biggest trepidation of the feedback giver in this case was the anticipated negative response. Essentially, giving the feedback was perceived to be more painful than allowing the person to continue in ignorance. So, everyone loses to some extent. Why is feedback exchange so hard?

Sheila Heen, “feedback author/ guru,” and Lecturer at Harvard Law, reflects on two core needs: “Human beings are wired to learn and grow. Getting better at something is what makes life satisfying. The other core human need is to be accepted, loved and respected for who we are now, as I am.”

And as my colleague and exec coach Michelle Steil, who teaches this stuff with me, emphasizes: “We require feedback to learn and grow, yet our personal beliefs about providing constructive feedback can create a conflict with our need to feel accepted for who we are.” This partly explains why it’s hard to both give and receive feedback. You also may have heard the term “Amygdala Hijack?” An oversimplified version of what essentially happens when we feel threatened is that our survival-trained brain responds, pumping out hormones that contribute to reactions like fight, flight, freeze and/or appease. So the negative reaction from feedback receivers is a “natural” response (amygdala hijack) at work. So what can we do about this paradox? 

Personal Leadership Moves (As Feedback Receiver):

  1. Put yourself in a position of control by reframing all feedback as an opportunity for you to grow. You can accept the feedback or not. Learn how to simply say “thank you.” Understand the perspective being presented to you. Be curious so you might better understand and give yourself time to determine what you may learn about yourself. Then do something about it. 
  2. Avoid or minimize the amygdala highjack by ASKING for forward feedback first. You can’t do anything about the past. However, you can always ask for one or two things you might do better in the immediate future. YOU are in control. Be a forward moving, always learning, feedback receiver. By acting this way, you make it safer for the feedback giver. 

Personal Leadership Moves (As Feedback Giver):

  1. Make sure the feedback is really about deep care for the receiver (and not about you). Intention and being a loving critic is way more important than style. Feedback giving is sometimes clumsy and messy. 
  2. Have the courage to give. It shows how much you care. Recognize it may not always go well. Yet that’s what loving leaders do. 

Always working on it in Personal Leadership 

– Lorne

One Millennial View: Sounds like a “mind over matter… over mind” situation. Some feedback might not always be the best you’ve ever heard, but be “thankful” for the opportunity to then improve. Speaking of, Happy Thanksgiving!

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis