Many of us claim that we want helpful, constructive feedback, but my experience tells me this is a bit of a fib. What we want is positive feedback. We seek validation in almost everything we do.
Harsh? No, just true. I like to sing and do so in my car when I’m by myself so I don’t inflict my tone-deaf voice on others. I enjoy the vibrations that happen within my body and the immediate mood boost that comes along with it. That’s great feedback and it tells me to keep singing, but also to spare others based on the alternate feedback I’ve received throughout life that my vocal stylings are not appreciated.
Feedback is just another word for opinion. We all have that friend (or parent) who will only tell us, “You’re brilliant! Where are you going to keep all of your awards?” And much love to them. But that’s not going to help us grow or improve. It’s the questions and constructive criticism that will get us there. We need the positive stuff, but we need the hard-to-hear goods more.
It’s also completely okay to dismiss negative feedback and decide you’re on the right track without it. It’s actually crucial in some cases. If you want to quit your boring job and go back to school, and you’re excited about it, dismiss the naysayers who tell you about the debt you’ll incur.
If you know what you want, and have a raging fire in your belly, ignore the negative feedback and go for it!
However, it’s still important to foster the ability to hear all types of feedback without getting defensive. Being capable to take opinions and feedback for what they are and land on the right thought process or choice will actually help you suffer less. For honest, helpful feedback to be effective, several things must be in order:
- You must genuinely want growth. Loved ones, most of them anyway, will err on the side of being kind and supportive. And they will interpret support as offering you only positive feedback. Strangers will be altogether more blunt and most likely unconcerned about your feelings. You don’t need titanium-strength skin. The trick is to not allow it to knock you on your butt and provoke tears. You have to be ready for it; prepare yourself by having a few trusted friends tell you what they really think, allowing you the grace to brace for criticism.
- Getting defensive only turns people off. If you feel you have to explain yourself, remember you actually don’t. If you know you’re prone to being defensive, start practicing letting go of the defense. Practice saying nothing when someone gives you difficult feedback. Listen, and even if you’re seething inside and want to scream, don’t do it. Listen, and when the opinion-giver has finished saying their piece, just say, “Thanks, that’s helpful.”
- Get honest about your weaknesses. Before I published Yoga Train, I made a very modest attempt to have it published through a traditional publisher. I was thrilled when after sending in my query letter, I was asked for my manuscript. The feedback I received was that it read more like a screenplay, and would make a decent movie because the dialogue was so strong and the character development was sound. But it lacked ‘narrative sinew’ so they passed. I went in, revised, and did my best to improve the descriptions. It’s still not my strong suit, but we all have to do the best we can and practice the stuff we’re not overly adept at.
- Be willing to change. If you really want to be the best version of yourself, you have to learn when and how to change. You’ve got to dedicate yourself to flexibility. Aim to be more flexible than the most impressive yoga practitioner you’ve ever seen. Rigidity and resistance to change will keep you parked without gas or a properly working engine. Lean more towards yes than no. And if you have to say no, be very clear on why.
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