The Virtuous Circle of Feedback. This is a guest post by Florian Mueck, author and speaker.
My son turned four last September. Isn’t that a great age? Everyone tells you how sweet you are. Everyone tells you how great you are when you do things. And it’s always constructive. Even if you wear two different socks, they’ll say, “Well done — it’s just that, next time maybe you try and wear a pair of socks that matches — that would be even better.” It’s so uplifting to constantly receive positive and constructive feedback. It makes us grow as a person.
So — what happened since we were four years old? Now people don’t tell us what we do well, or what we could do better, to improve. We’re cut off — it’s past. So then, how do we grow as a person? Can we still grow as a person?
In your job you might have a feedback talk with your boss once a year — if you’re lucky, and he finds a loophole in his tight agenda. Or your partner hardly ever addresses any of the problems you’re having until it’s too late — her things are gone, and she’s left her keys on the kitchen counter.
Without feedback, all we can do is we assess the situations of our lives for ourselves. We can try to improve, but, unfortunately, the assessment we make by ourselves will never reflect what others perceive about us. Our self-assessment will always paint a different picture — a subjective view that has hardly anything to do with objective reality.
Growth Requires Feedback
And personal growth? No way. We are concerned far too much with the big unknown — the perceptions of other people. Since we never receive open and contructive feedback from them, we create our own ideas…
- “The others will say…”
- “What will the others think?”
- “I can’t do it — it would be perceived as unprofessional.”
In order to avoid a problem that never really existed, we stay inside our house of comfort. We think it’s raining outside while in reality the sun is shining. Somebody from outside has to motivate us to step outside. Feedback is the key to unlock the door.
The hypothesis: we can only grow if we receive positive and constructive feedback.
The Virtuous Circle Of Feedback
In order to receive feedback, you first have to DELIVER something — let’s say a public speech.
Receiving constructive and postive feedback helps you DEVELOP new ways of speaking. You may use more vocal variety, you may start to move your body more, you may include a quotation here and there — you are now standing on the threshold of your house of comfort.
Once you develop and deploy new ways of speaking, you will receive even better feedback. The level of expectation rises, and a higher level of constructive feedback is given to you. You step outside of your house of comfort, into the garden, and you begin to DARE to follow totally different paths of dealing with your challenges. You start to sing ‘My Way’ when you talk about your late father. You dance the Tango with life. You express yourself — you look angry, you look sad, you look happy.
The new feedback gives you goose bumps. You haven’t heard anything like it since you were four years old. The new round of uplifting, positive, constructive feedback lets you give up any remaining restrictions. You are leaving the garden of your house of comfort. You’re stepping onto the road outside — with confidence. You are about to DIVERSIFY. New facets, new experiments, new quantum leaps. You have changed. You have grown. You smile….
Beatriz, from México, participated in one of my seminars. When she started, she was rather timid and restrained, but she was one determined lady. After two days she’d made four speeches; she delivered, developed, dared and diversified. Beatriz said:
“Yesterday I was standing on the other side of the river. You have led me to this side.”
All I did, all the entire group of participants did, was give Beatriz positive and constructive feedback throughout the seminar.
Instead of the Vicious Circle of guessing what others think about us, the Virtuous Circle of Feedback encourages all of us to grow to unexpected levels.
Give And Receive
We all can give positive and constructive feedback. We all can receive feedback. It is up to us.
We can ask our colleague — say, one who is about to present the latest business unit results to the Board of Directors — if he or she wants to receive our feedback afterwards. It’s unlikely he or she will refuse. Then we can ask that same colleague to give us feedback on our own presentation, on another professional occasion. And I promise you, any of your colleagues you have helped in this way will try their best to out-do you with even more constructive feedback than they received from you.
People are not used to giving constructive feedback. And they are certainly not used to receiving feedback. It’s a learning process. I recommend you kick off this process in your professional and private lives as soon as possible.
In the meantime I will continue to give positive and constructive feedback to my son. Four years old — isn’t that a great age?
Florian Mueck is author of “The Seven Minute Star — become a great speaker in 15 simple steps”. He offers public speaking seminars, presentation coaching and keynote speeches. He blogs at florianmueck.com and tweets at @florianmueck