How to beat your fear of feedback for good

Oct 20, 2016

Could the very feedback you avoid be the hidden key to your greatness?

One of the things that often stops people from asking for feedback is fear. They’re afraid they may hear something they’d rather not.

They feel the feedback will confirm some deeply held but secret belief that they aren’t really up to that task or job position.

For some it’s an indication that they have failed, yet the lack of feedback could be exactly what is stopping you from becoming what you really want to be.

Perhaps you need the very feedback you’re denying yourself.

Feedback helps you grow.

‘No news is good news’ isn’t true when it comes to a lack of feedback. If everyone around you is silent about what they really think it could spell bad news when it comes to learning how you can improve and grow in both your personal and professional life. As Bill Gates said in his Ted Talk on the subject, “with no feedback, no coaching, there’s just no way to improve”. He says that even the best of us can get better if we are given useful feedback.

How can you beat your fear of feedback once and for all?

If you’re the kind of person that tends to feel uncomfortable about asking for feedback, then it might help to reframe the way you think about it.

It doesn’t define you.

The first step is to make the feedback about the task and not about you as a person. Your abilities are not you: if they were then what would happen to you each time you grew or learnt something new? With or without that skill you still exist! Know that you have the ability to completely transform your level of proficiency in a skill but that these skills are not the sum total of who you are. So, don’t take feedback to heart.

Next, get to know yourself better.

Notice how you respond to the idea of feedback. Do you automatically think it’s going to be negative? What’s going on inside you and how does it make you feel? Get perspective.

What’s behind it all?

Now that you are aware of your inner feelings, ask yourself what it is about the idea of feedback that gives rise to these feelings. Is it fear, low self-esteem or something else?

The next step is to rewire your brain circuit.

There are two steps to this. Step one is to change the way you see feedback. Remember, the purpose of feedback is to help you improve. Feedback should cover both what you are doing well and where you can be doing better. Ask yourself, “How will I know what to do differently if I’m never told?”

Seeing feedback this way stops you from looking at it as something that criticises to something that teaches; something that tears down to something that builds up. You are creating a system to speed up your rate of becoming the very best at what you do.

Step two is to practice asking for feedback. Research shows that behaviourial patterns are controlled by the habits we’ve formed, so if we want to break a habit we must do so by creating new habits that will rewire our brain.

So jump in. Ask for feedback to rewire your brain.

It may feel totally uncomfortable at first but you need to begin somewhere. You could start with those closest to you but consider this: friends and family members may not be totally honest for fear of hurting you. You need to ask people who are neutral and unbiased as they are more likely to tell you what they really think.

Ask for feedback from employers (paid or unpaid), colleagues, teachers or even customers. Make it one of the questions you ask at job interviews – ask whether employees are given feedback to help them grow and, if so, how the company goes about creating a healthy feedback culture.

Include self-evaluation.

Feedback can be formal or informal, meaning it doesn’t only have to come from outside sources. Honest and healthy self-reflection and evaluation can help too. Can you video yourself and then watch the video over? It’s surprising what you are able to pick up simply by watching yourself, for example, delivering a presentation or talk, doing a mock interview (practicing with a friend, that is) and many other things.

Finally, don’t approach feedback purely as a way to confirm you are doing well. If you do you will have missed the point. Keep an open mind and a willingness to put into practice whatever you learn.

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