Have you ever worked with someone who couldn’t benefit from gaining advice on their career? How about gaining awareness of a behavior that’s getting in their way? I didn’t think so. Why then is it so difficult to both ask for and receive quality feedback?
Although people say they want to learn and grow, everyone also wants to be accepted, respected, and loved. These core desires often prevent individuals from asking for insight or receiving feedback with grace. No one has all the answers, so asking trusted and respected Truth Tellers for their perspective is key to creating both strong connections and career performance.
Here’s the challenge: Feedback received from our colleagues, clients, supervisors, or peers is often vague, contains general praising comments, and lacks concrete recommendations. However, when someone is asked for their advice, effective input results.
According to a recent study, those asked to provide advice suggested 34% more areas of improvement and 56% more ways to improve. Why does this one word make a difference? People link feedback with grades and performance evaluations. Since those are based on past performance, providing future, critical and actionable input becomes more challenging. Advice, on the other hand, encourages people to think forward which shifts the type of information shared.
Bonus: Asking for advice, according to Robert Cialdini, author of Influence and Pre-Suasion, is also the fastest way to build a connection.
Equally important to gaining advice is receiving it in a productive manner. Choosing to become critical, rather than curious, or ignore a Truth Teller’s input, remains the surest way to never hear the truth again. Considering our brains are hard-wired for survival, any comment that errs on the side of being critical can trigger our emotions and even put us in a fight or flight response. To best override your instincts and deepen your connection, choose to receive input with GRACE:
Guard Down – Put your body in a more relaxed state to receive feedback by taking slow, deep breaths. Let your shoulders and jaw relax, with your arms by your sides to resemble an open body posture. Stay present, listen deeply without interrupting, and remind yourself this is one individual’s insight or perspective.
Reflect – Rather than reject, deflect, or protect yourself from a Truth Teller’s words, reflect on the message. After all, we can’t change what we won’t or don’t acknowledge. Reflecting, versus reacting, allows you to gain awareness as you seek nuggets of truth. Not all feedback is going to be 100% accurate or helpful, yet all feedback is worth examining and absorbing.
Ask Questions – Should you receive fuzzy feedback, such as “You need to play a stronger role on the team,” ask for additional clarity. “I’d like to better understand your input. Would you please provide a clear behavioral example that leads you to make that statement?” Or, “Are you speaking about my behavior since the recent department reorganization or in general?” If you’re looking for direction ask, “I’d appreciate your advice. If you were in my shoes, what would you do differently?” or “If you found yourself in my situation, how would you proceed?” Continue to ask questions until you truly understand their perspective, especially if you emotionally feel yourself pushing back.
Clarify & Confirm – Summarize your discussion to alleviate misunderstandings and confirm next steps. “If I heard you correctly, during meetings you’d like me to encourage participation and draw out the more introverted members of our team, as well as, hold team members accountable for deadlines. Is that accurate?” If appropriate, share how you plan to implement a Truth Teller’s insight which allows them to feel heard and respected. Following, make notes on the conversation and your commitments to revisit with a fresh perspective when less emotionally charged. Rather than ruminate on the discussion, which often happens due to our negativity bias, focus on taking aligned action and putting into practice new behaviors.
Express Thanks – No matter your reaction to someone’s feedback, a “thank you” is still in order if it was delivered with good intentions. Perhaps the timing or delivery could have been better, yet for most, sharing their truth still took a tremendous amount of courage. A simple, “Thank you. You’ve given me a lot to think about,” covers just about everything.
Following a speaking engagement, I consistently follow-up with the organizer and ask, “Please share with me any and all feedback to help me grow further faster.” Moving forward, I’ll be asking for their advice, and I’m always grateful for yours as well.