Make Feedback Fuel Your Personal Growth

Tímea Csízik
Coach | OD Consultant | Developer | HR Professional
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Let’s be honest: we have a complicated relationship with feedback.

We would like to know how others see us, what they think about our work, our behavior, our qualities. We need feedback for better performance and for personal growth. We crave for feedback, but we don’t like when it hurts. We like feedback that is delivered in a non-harmful way. We want feedback to be comfortable, and most of all, positive.

That’s the paradox of feedback: we want to know, but sometimes it’s hard to hear.

Self-esteem and self-awareness are targeted

Most often we want to get feedback because it can either improve our self-esteem or our self-awareness. Positive feedback can be good for our self-esteem, while negative feedback can help us understand our own behavior better. And if we want to improve ourselves, this latter is very important.

Feedback can help us understand what our words and actions (or their absence) triggers in others.

It can give us guidance on how to express ourselves so that we could impact on others in a way we intended to. Or at least, feedback can help us to be able to count with the probable consequences of our behavior.

It seems, that while positive feedback feels better and can nourish our self-esteem, we can use it to reinforce specific elements of our behavior as well.

On the other side, negative feedback is also essential to boost our self-improvement. Both of them are needed to personal growth.

However, positivity or negativity are not the only aspects to categorize feedback. Specificity is also crucial. Taking this into account, we can differentiate 4 types of feedback.

4 types of feedback for personal growth

4 types of feedback

Positive and General
‘You did a great job.’ – This kind of feedback gives us a good feeling of satisfaction. It can spark our motivation. Unfortunately, its beneficial effect does not last long, and usually it carries too general message to study from.

Positive and Specific
‘The two diagrams at the end of your report was very clear and useful to understand the risks.’ – This feedback also gives us the feeling of pride, and it enables us to learn from our success as well. It highlights the points we did well to prompt us to repeat or apply them later on. Very important to give us energy on the rough road of personal growth.

Negative and Specific
‘During performance appraisals you use a lot of closed-ended questions implying your expected answers, and it may block your colleagues to explain their true opinion.’– That is a hard one. It’s definitely a confrontation, because it is not pleasant to face with the content. However, it is specific enough to spot out the points of improvement, enabling us to learn from our failures and mistakes. We call this type of feedback constructive criticism, and it is essential for personal growth.

Negative and General
‘This presentation was confusing and useless.’ – It is a destructive one. It upsets and demotivates us, so no learning will happen.

 

As we can see, if we want to make feedback fuel our personal growth, we need to get specific feedback, both from the positive and the negative side. So we need to be proactive and drive the process of getting constructive, specific feedback from others. We can also take active steps to integrate these feedback into our behaviour instead of closing them out or letting them hurt us.

Let’s see what we can do!

Before / during / after getting feedback

Getting feedback has three phases. Before, during and after. We often pay a lot of attention to the ‘during’ phase. We learn exactly how to give a feedback (information-specific, issue-focused, based on observations etc.), and we are taught how to receive a feedback (be open, use active listening, don’t be defensive etc.).

On the other hand, we rarely focus on the steps we can take in order to get the constructive feedback we can actually use for our personal growth.

And even less energy remains to turn feedback into effective self-improvement and real behavioral changes.

Before feedback – Initiate

I experienced that I can leverage the content of feedback the most when I am prepared for it: when my mind is tuned to accept and I am ready to change. The most obvious way to ensure myself being in this state is to initiate the process of feedback proactively.

You must have realized that simply asking people, “Do you have any feedback for me?” usually leads to general and vague answers.

And as we saw, general feedback does not really help personal growth. So I suggest to equip yourself with clear-cut questions that bring up specific feedback from your partners.

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Here are some examples of these well-defined questions for inspiration:

What is the one thing I could do differently in our relationship?

What do you think I should start doing as a parent?

What is the best thing about working with me?

What is the most challenging about working with me?

What should I stop doing as your leader?

What could I be doing better regarding this project?

What are the two things I could change in myself in the next two months that would generate positive change in our cooperation?

If I asked you to describe me in three words, what would you say?

What is the most unique feature of me as your friend?

What should I keep doing in the next phase of this project?

How could I prepare for this position?

Which module should I turn on in myself to be successful in this task? (As if I were a machine with different skill modules.)

The words like task / project / position / work / relationship or friend / partner / leader / parent are naturally interchangeable, and you can feel free to combine the parts of these examples to capture the feedback you really could use. Let your curiosity and imagination lead you.

Most of the time you are going to get really interesting answers that are worth to go after.

Sometimes you need to clarify feedback to understand its message and use it for the benefit of your personal growth.

In these cases you can use follow-up questions as well:

What do you mean exactly by saying…?

Could you mention some examples for this?

How will you notice that I have started …?

How does it affect you?

How does it feel when I…?

What should I do instead? (If somebody says you should NOT do this and that.)

Let me ask you this another way…

And one more advice: use silence.

Your questions might move your partners and they need some time to phrase the answer. You can help them by giving them time and silence to think.

 

Now it’s your turn.

Choose two or three questions for this week and start to collect feedback.

Integrate constructive feedback for personal growth.

After feedback – Integrate

Even when the feedback is far from ideal (it’s not real-time, it’s not specific, it’s not constructive etc.) we often get touched by them and carry them around in our mind. Some of them we understand, some of them we keep out. Some of them we try to build upon, some of them we try to get rid of.

When we got a piece of badly formulated feedback, it’s often hard to integrate the message, because the content may conflict with some of our qualities, believes or habits.

It takes mental energy to transform and build the new inputs in in order to achieve personal growth. And it is even harder when we were not prepared to receive a feedback, because it was not us who initiated, or it had a surprising timing.

When we get feedback it’s important not only to accept and incorporate the message, but also to understand and personalize it.

That means we should think their meaning through thoroughly in order to get the constructive parts out and fit them into the puzzle of our own picture.

To help you in this process we offer two simple ways to cope with and integrate feedback.

1. Guiding questions

Answering the following questions might help you to integrate the feedback you have run into:

What is touching me in this feedback?

Which part of it is calling me?

Which part of it can I agree with?

What do I not understand in it?

How can they read this from my behavior?

How will they notice I have made changes in this dimension?

Give yourself time to think about the feedback by answering these questions.

You can also decide to observe your behavior in the following days to gain experience what’s behind the feedback you got.

These steps may lead you to change your behavior or to start a new conversation with the one you got the feedback from. The latter one can be useful when you still have questions regarding the feedback or if you want to expresses your commitment to change.

Either way, dedicating time and attention to the integration of the feedback you got is necessary if you want to reach personal growth.

2. Symblify – Life made simple | The life coach in your pocket

The most confusing thing about feedback is that it concerns our self-image, the picture we created of ourselves.

In the unique life coaching app, Symblify, you can find the ‘Be myself more’ script that helps you organize your thoughts regarding yourself.

Symblify is a great tool to integrate any feedback you recently got from others.

 

Symblify Session Memo iPad
In addition to clarifying your strengths and weaknesses, ‘Be myself more’ script also provides an easy-to-follow flow to integrate new inputs, like feedback, experiences or new skills into your self-image.

Symblify encourages you to find sustainable and authentic ways to make changes in your behavior in order to feel more accepted, effective and balanced at the same time.

It’s a perfect app for those who want to deal with their own personal growth on a regular basis.

Now it’s your turn again.

Go out, initiate conversations to get feedback, and integrate the inputs to fuel your personal growth. Remember, getting feedback is a great way to learn how to give feedback too.

Improve Your Feedback Skills Today!

How to prepare for give feedback that gets to the point with Symblify?

Symblify is an intuitive self-improvement app that helps you to deal with your difficult situations and improve your skills with the power of symbolic thinking.

STEP-BY-STEP

1. Download Symblify – Life Made Simple from the App Store

2. Phrase your question like this: What should I highlight in my feedback to X?

3. Choose symbol cards to describe your colleague’s CURRENT behavior

4. Select the symbols that represent the behaviors you suggest to modify

5. Choose new symbol cards to describe your colleague’s EXPECTED behavior

6. Consider the next steps he/she could take to make that change happen.

7. Summarize your thoughts:

What is your main message?

How do you see his/her behavior? What do you appreciate in it?

What is your suggestions on what he/she could change?

How will this change affect you?

What are your suggestions on how he/she should start that change?

8. Take your Session Memo with you to your face to face discussion to remind yourself to get to the point.

Download Symblify and start handling your difficult situations with more self-awareness today!

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