By Stephenie Craig, Journey Bravely
I was stressed and busy. Parenting required more energy than usual. I was irritable and I didn’t realize how I was coming across. I thought I was managing stress well until my husband said I was being grumpy. Initially, I became defensive, telling myself he was wrong and I wasn’t the problem. After the defensiveness receded, I sorted through the feedback and recognized he was right. The uncomfortable nudge toward self-awareness provided a helpful opportunity to adjust and make amends with my family regarding my stress grumping.
How are you at receiving feedback from those you trust? Do you tend to get defensive and angry? Do you tell yourself you aren’t the problem when someone tells you something about your behavior you haven’t noticed? What might you be missing by assuming the person giving you feedback is the problem?
When another person tells you their experience of your behavior, positive or negative, they are providing feedback. While it would be wonderful if we had an accurate view of ourselves, humans have blind spots about how we are showing up, especially when under stress. When done well, both receiving and giving feedback are valuable skills that help you and others grow into wisdom and maturity. Feedback provides an opportunity to embrace the freeing truths that you aren’t perfect, you won’t be perfect, and life can be a continuous arc of growth as long as you live.
Despite the benefits of feedback, it can be a difficult practice. Receiving suggestions from others about ourselves is humbling, vulnerable work. Feedback can challenge a fragile sense of self, bring up uncomfortable insecurities, and can unearth historical shame resulting in defensiveness. However, working through these discomforts is worth the work to bring you more health and connection. So, how do you navigate feedback as a tool of growth?
7 Healthy Ways to Incorporate Feedback Into Your Life
1. Choose trusted sources of feedback. Avoid choosing people who have been historically unhealthy. Choose people who are gracious, growth-oriented, emotionally healthy, balanced, non-judgmental and able to receive feedback. Don’t choose people who invite you to feel poorly about yourself.
2. Notice and study your defense patterns. How do you feel in your body and thoughts when someone tells you something difficult about yourself? What stories do you tell yourself? How do you blame others? What words do you say? Remember, you aren’t always right.
3. Calm your body and mind. Notice if your body has gone into fight, flight or freeze. Take deep breaths for 1-2 minutes to reset. Let the person giving the feedback know you need a moment if you are struggling to respond well. Engage a healthy coping skill like journaling or taking a walk to give yourself space to process.
4. Tell yourself the truth about the feedback. Sort who is providing the feedback. If they are a trustworthy source, remind yourself of this. If they aren’t a trustworthy source, it’s okay to move forward without spending much time or energy on the interaction. Remind yourself feedback does not mean you are a failure, a bad person, or less than you were before. Feedback is a tool to improve your healthy sense of self and maturity.
5. Listen and internalize. Really consider what is being said to you. Notice how it might be true. Notice how your awareness of your own behavior might be lacking. Consider how your blind spot might be hurtful to those around you. Notice if you’d like to continue behaving in the ways being reported to you or if you would feel better to know you are behaving differently. Consider how you might want to change the behavior. Remember the person giving you feedback is taking an emotional risk to provide you with this information. Consider being grateful someone cared enough to have a difficult, helpful conversation.
6. Make amends and adjustments. Now that you understand and accept something new about your behavior, take responsibility by letting others know you regret how the behavior may have negatively impacted them. Seek healthy support to create a plan for changing the behavior. Try inviting those you trust to let you know when they see the unhealthy behavior and to let you know when you are improving.
7. Be a student of giving feedback well. As you learn to receive healthy feedback, notice how you might be a healthy, kind source of feedback to others in your life. Feel what works well for you and incorporate these learnings into your feedback approach with others.
While not an easy practice, receiving feedback provides you with an ongoing opportunity to become a healthier, better version of yourself. As you navigate feedback, connect with us as journeybravely.com for coaching and counseling support along your journey.