The Daily Challenge: Receiving poorly delivered direct feedback


Even poorly delivered feedback can have value.


Receiving poorly delivered direct feedback

Read Time: 3 Minutes

Direct feedback can help you gain a clearer understanding of how to be successful in your role (we dove into this topic in last week’s Challenge). And if you’re like the vast majority of people, you want to receive honest and constructive feedback that helps you make necessary improvements. But the strive to feel socially accepted, so central in all of our lives, might make it difficult to appreciate the benefits of hearing that honest opinion about your work.

To make matters worse, not everyone is skilled at delivering direct feedback in a way that is well received by their audience. In an effort to be honest, they may fail to be intentional or thoughtful with their choice of words, timing, or delivery.

Whether or not feedback is delivered well depends on both the communicator and the receiver. It’s a nuanced process that requires intentionality and loads of awareness.

Sometimes this poorly delivered and maybe too direct feedback can catch us off-guard, causing us to feel overwhelmed, defensive, or just plain angry. Those feelings can become psychological noise that makes the feedback you’re hearing less effective. While you may hear the words, the noise of your reaction might prevent you from processing the bigger message.

So what can you do about this? How can you remove the sting of hearing *poorly delivered direct feedback so you can actually put that feedback to use? (*Note: your definition of poorly delivered feedback may be very different from someone else’s definition — like we said, it’s nuanced.)

One way to improve your ability to receive direct feedback (regardless of how it’s delivered) in an effective way is by practicing the non-violent communication approach: a strategy of peaceful and effective conflicts resolution. The NVC approach calls for observing the facts and triggers, expressing how those facts resonate with you in an honest but non-confrontational manner, and empathizing with how they affect another person.

The practice is widely used in a variety of settings, including therapy and work environment. Receiving uncomfortable feedback is can benefit from NVC as well: The more you reflect on your reaction triggers, the more you will be able to control your ability to receive future direct feedback in an effective way.

Today, reflect on a recent situation where you thought your manager or coworker gave you direct feedback that stung a bit.

Step 1: Identify the messages they wanted to convey. What do you think was the intention of that feedback? For example, were they wanting to move a project along? Did they want to let you know that some element of your work or work style needs your attention?

Step 2. Identify and reflect on the triggers. Following the non-violent communication approach, write down how you reacted when receiving direct feedback.

Follow the sentence structure below:

“When they ... , I felt that… “

Without labeling the person giving feedback as too direct, explain what was your reaction to the things they said. That will allow you to keep ownership over your reaction and understand what triggers you. It also will give them an insight into how their message was conveyed.

Step 3: Reflect on the positive outcome of their direct feedback. What did you learn from it? Did you benefit from it more than you would from a silence?

Pro-tip: Invite them for a conversation. The best way to learn their true intention (Step 1) is to ask them, and if you still have unresolved emotions about their direct feedback, it might help to let them know how their feedback was received (Step 2). Include thanking them for willingness to give you their honest feedback.

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