For Those Who Have A Complicated Relationship With Feedback
Sara Ismail-Beigi Bartlett speaks with guests about their ideas, perspectives, and best practices regarding feedback. For some, this process can be alarming, but it is essential and a key basis for improvement.
For some, the question “Can I Offer You Some Feedback?” can sound like the “we need to talk” of the business world. Your mind may start racing and the conversation and working back what happened. In this episode we talk with Andrew about his thoughts on feedback and tailoring feedback to ensure support to others. When it gets difficult to give constructive criticism, setting clear intentions is a great start. Subscribe to this podcast today and so you never miss an episode!
Sara: Welcome to, Can I Offer You Some Feedback? My name is Sara, and this is the podcast for those who have a complicated relationship with feedback and are looking to hear from real people across levels and industries with their ideas, perspectives, and best practices on feedback. Before we dive in, I'd like to introduce our guest for the podcast today, Andrew. They're a chemical engineer and color scientist working in research and development. Welcome to our conversation today.
Andrew: Well, thanks, Sara. Happy to be here.
Sara: All right. So let's kick things off with the main question of the podcast. When I say the phrase, 'can I offer you some feedback?' What's your gut reaction when you hear that?
Andrew: Usually it's, this may not be good. It's like the, “We need to talk” of the business world.
Sara: Yeah. Any emotions that come up? Do you get worried or anxious or?
Andrew: I just kind of like, well, okay, what did I do wrong? Or what do I need to do differently?
Sara: Yeah. Oftentimes it's just immediate mind racing of working back a couple of steps. What happened here? So when you think about feedback, do you prefer to be the giver or the receiver of feedback?
Andrew: I guess it would kind of depend on what feedback. I think I'd much rather receive negative feedback. Giving negative feedback is difficult that's like confrontation that you're going to have, whereas when I receive negative feedback it's like, all right, I know where this is going to go. I know how I can handle it. And then I also like to give out positive feedback. It's nice to tell people how well they're doing and understand that.
Sara: Hmm. So that's interesting preferring to give out the positive and receive the negative for yourself and maybe not negative, but constructive feedback in that way. So when you think about the feedback that you're providing, whether it's positive or whether it's constructive or supportive, how do you define meaningful feedback?
Andrew: I think meaningful feedback is where the intention is clear and you have either gone to reinforce this positive behavior, this good behavior that you've seen and help them build on it, or where they should focus. Or where that they'll realize what maybe needs to be different. What can turn around without it feeling like a direct attack, without it feeling too personal. Where again that intent is clear. That I think kind of gets lost a lot of... You know, that's also more of the like subjective in like the way you say it, the tone of your voice, in what setting you brought it up. And that's I think the real tricky part in terms of like what words you're saying or what actual kind of behavior you're looking at it's more of I think the easier part.
Sara: Hmm. Can you say more of that? What makes it easier?
Andrew: Well, I don't know, because you know in like your mind what you want to get out of this feedback. You've probably been thinking about longer time than they have once you're hearing it. So, when you're giving it, you've already had that process. They've got to hear the words, process it, and then take what the impact is going to be. So I think that's kind of like you've worked that out, but when you're delivering it, you never know like how it comes out. You can look back and be like, I probably could have done that a lot better. And you would've said the same exact thing, but if you ran it back, you'd say, maybe I should have approached this in a different way, or maybe I should have just led with this part instead of the other.
Sara: Yeah. I think you're hitting it right on the head. A lot of times people forget, especially those who give feedback, that we spend a lot more time processing it than the person we're giving it to does. So I love that you shared that. It sounds like when you were describing that meaningful feedback, you had a couple of scenarios in mind. Can you share an example of an experience where you've seen meaningful feedback delivered?
Andrew: I guess it's hard to really just like pin down that exact moment where that person, they said the exact thing and then you heard it and that kind of light went off and you're like, "Oh, it all makes sense now. Now that's what they've been looking for." And so it's probably not just one experience. It's more of like a continuous process over a long period of time where you're making small incremental changes. It's not that direct of a thing. So it's more when you're understanding with your boss or your colleague or whatever that you know this is what is the best approach. This is what they prefer. And then seeing that reinforce like, okay, I've already started to see like this is obviously received better. So let me keep that up. Or what is it that really caused this to go poorly? Or really caused this to go well?
Sara: Yeah. I love that you're viewing it as or have seen it as this iterative process, right? I'm using information that I'm learning about that other person to really craft and tailor it for them. And that's what helps really make that difference. So, thank you. Thank you for sharing that. If you're thinking about other people or advice you might give, what is one wish that you have for people? If they could do one thing better regarding feedback, what would it be?
Andrew: I guess one of the bigger issue is like to practice what you preach kind of approach. And I think that's always difficult for me as well like, "Oh, I can say these things, but did I really hold myself to this same standard?" And until you do that like, can I really correct a behavior? Or if that's not, you know, to have to understand that you are in a different situation that something that you may do is not applicable to someone else in a different role. So that I think is just usually the harder part of like, I'm going to tell you these things, but if someone's thinking like, I don't see you doing this at all or they're like, you need to communicate with me better. Like, I need to understand what's going on, but then you are constantly withholding information, they're going to say, well, like it's kind of the whole like you don't want double standards, you don't want that to take effect. And that could really hammer. Someone's going to hear that and go, "Yeah, that doesn't really matter. Look at them, they clearly can't be a part of something that they really want to see changed."
Sara: I think that's great. I mean, you're really touching on the point of when sometimes you hear a leader saying, do as I say, but not as I do. And how can you have that kind of authentic communication or believe in that person if you're not seeing them exhibit it? I love kind of you having that awareness about it and bringing that up into think about how that shows up in conversations. And it definitely is a concern that I hear people bringing up all the time. So, for our last question, in our time together today, Andrew, can I offer you some feedback?
Andrew: Sure. Go ahead.
Sara: So, I wanted to share something I've observed, especially also in your feedback today. You are someone who's really conscious of all the other pieces and parts that are present in a conversation. Right. Getting more insight on how that person is showing up, what are some of the other factors? What did I learn in past history? Really piecing together the full picture. I think that that's an opportunity to explain that more to people. I know in other conversations that we've had, especially about professional situations, thinking about how to provide other people with all those contextual elements that you see and that you have observation on, might be a real opportunity for you to be able to help other people see from your perspective the different types of things that are coming up for you.
Andrew: Well, that's excellent. I'll take that into consideration.
Sara: So Andrew, thank you so much for taking the time today to speak with me. And thanks for joining us on another episode of, Can I Offer You Some Feedback? You can reach me at [email protected]. We would love to hear from you on any of your thoughts or feedback on any other perspectives you'd like to hear from next. As always, give us a quick rating on your platform of choice and share this podcast with a friend. And I'm hoping that tomorrow you take a chance and offer some feedback when it's needed most.