Think about this. A person goes to a doctor because they have some knee pain after a particularly busy weekend of work in the yard. As part of the normal exam process, the doctor discovers the patient’s blood pressure is higher than it ought to be. The doctor mentions it to the patient and suggests some healthy lifestyle choices that may help. The doctor wants to schedule some follow-up checks to monitor it. The patient replies, “That’s not what I want help with. I know what’s wrong. I’m here because my knee hurts.”
Most people will recognize that as an odd response. We’d think something like, “Come on, listen up and be open to this new information. Healthy blood pressure is important.”
Sure, the patient knows they have knee pain, and to their credit they want help with that. What about the new, unexpected feedback? How are they handling that? Of the two issues, the high blood pressure may be the more important one to resolve to make a meaningful improvement in their well-being. And remember, it could be possible to work on both issues.
It can be like that when we’re being coached or seeking guidance from someone we trust. Most of us have some habits or tendencies we know about and want to change. A person may approach the coaching with the mindset of, “Here’s how I am, here’s what I want to improve. Do you have any ideas or suggestions?” They may even be “working on that” and may be making meaningful improvements. That self-awareness and progress is great.
It’s also important to stay open and respond well to new feedback. Even, and perhaps especially, feedback that seems to come from out of the blue.
Responding well to unexpected feedback from a friend, colleague, supervisor or coach is challenging, especially if the feedback goes against how you perceive your environment, performance, relationships or even yourself.
In those situations, you can feel unsteady and vulnerable. It can impact your self-esteem. The temptation to ignore the new information and cling to familiar and safe beliefs and habits can be strong. The knowledge that there’s something new to reflect on and work on can be uncomfortable or scary.
You can see these situations as rife with obstacles to overcome or rich with opportunities to embrace.
And consider this – maybe the best response is to recognize both aspects.
Acting on the feedback can present new challenges and new work, and it can also present a wonderful chance to improve.
So what are some good ways to respond?
Consider these as options:
Keep an open mind. Hear the person out. Process what they’re saying. Ask clarifying questions to understand more about what they think and why. Do that in a spirit of learning and understanding rather than in a spirit of argument. Reflect on it. Give yourself some time and space to do that.
Perhaps you disagree with the feedback. In that case, get some more opinions from people you trust to be fair and objective with you. After all, just because someone said it doesn’t mean it’s right or that it’s good advice.
If you feel threatened, insecure or vulnerable, be kind to yourself and remember the things you do well and the positive feedback you’ve received in the past. Give yourself credit.
People are generally more open to feedback and coaching that aligns with their existing perspectives, opinions and beliefs. It’s tougher to be open to considering feedback and coaching that’s new and may challenge those important aspects of a person’s self. Being open and responding well to that type of feedback is an important aspect of being coachable.
How open am I to considering feedback and coaching that challenges my existing perspectives, opinions and beliefs? What’s my proof to back up my view on this?
When I receive feedback that I wasn’t expecting, how do I respond internally and towards the other person?
Are my existing perspectives, opinions and beliefs keeping me from fairly evaluating feedback from others in a way that could help me?
How coachable am I?
© 2016 Rob Otte
Rob Otte is a teacher, speaker, writer and coach. He is the Director of Corporate Training and Development for Roehl Transport, Inc. in Marshfield, Wisconsin. Roehl Transport is a freight transportation and logistics company employing 2,500 people. You may contact Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thoughts for the week:
Feedback is the breakfast of champions.- Ken Blanchard
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. –George Bernard Shaw
Examine what is said, not who speaks. –African proverb
To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing. –Elbert Hubbard
Make feedback normal, not a performance review. –Ed Batista
Feedback is an amazing gift and in our culture when given a gift it’s appropriate to just say “Thank you!”
Especially if you ever wish to receive this gift again. – CoachTim
Looking forward to our next conversation