Here’s a powerful practice for living with courage: ask for honest feedback.
(Note: This is a tip from a blog post I wrote on 10 bullshit-free ways to do the hard work and play to your own leading edge.
Most people have difficulty receiving feedback, much less asking for it, directly–talk about a practice that requires courage!
But if you, like me, are trying to play the Game of Life in such a way that you live 100% fully alive, without the blinders on, without going through life in a fog of default reactions and responses, then feedback is part of that.
Why It’s Important
Asking for feedback and being willing to hear it will leverage up your life.
It’s like putting Miracle Grow on your process.
It gives a deeper context and a richer meaning to things, because you’re considering divergent points of view and using critical thinking to tease out what your own True North is.
Sometimes people say that you shouldn’t ask for feedback, because you should just hone in on what your own internal compass is saying.
Sure, that’s a worthy practice as well (like most things in life, there’s a dichotomous relationship at work, here, and I can see the benefits of deciding that you’ll avoid asking for feedback because you have another process of going internally, or to avoid being swayed by someone else’s opinions).
At the same time, if I’m truly connected to my True North, really and truly aligned with it, someone else’s feedback won’t matter, now will it?
So what’s wrong with asking for feedback, considering it, taking what you like, and leaving the rest?
Criticism Isn’t What You Think it Is
By the way: Criticism is generally seen as different than “feedback.” Criticism is the mean stuff, whereas “feedback” is usually seen as being more neutral.
It’s all “Feedback,” even the criticism.
Criticism is just the other person’s spin on the feedback that happens to be negative, negatively phrased, or at odds with what you had hoped for.
Seeing everything as just being “feedback”–if you really integrate it into your life–is a powerful open door to a new way of thinking about everything that you encounter.
It also diminishes the fear around receiving feedback. When you’re no longer thinking that what you hear is someone else being “mean” or not “liking” your project, it gets easier to hear whatever they have to say. They’re just doing their thing.
If it’s all just feedback, then it’s all just that person’s perspective. That’s it. Their perspective, aired.
Where feedback becomes difficult is when we think it has to “mean” something.
We get afraid of asking for feedback when we think that what someone says has any effect or bearing on our lives, whatsoever.
It doesn’t–unless you let it. Feedback is just feedback. You ask for it because you want to keep a sharp ear for any places where you have a blind spot.
In many ways, asking for feedback is a very self-ish practice, in the sense that you’re ultimately asking because you want to see if what is offered can give you–yes, YOU!–more insights into something.
And that’s fine.
Another fear? We get afraid of asking for feedback when we worry that someone might use it to hurt us. We’ve all met that person (and it might have been one of our own family members) who knew just how to let us know that we had royally fucked up, in the most passive-aggressive possible way.
Whether it’s direct criticism or passive criticism, when you’ve received criticism that hurt earlier in your life, it’s harder to think of receiving feedback with anything but fear.
It becomes easier to decide to do it all perfectly so that you never need to hear the criticism, and it definitely isn’t something you’re going to ASK for (because that would be crazy, if your history with criticism/feedback has been negative!).
So if that’s you (and it has definitely been me!) then I’m asking you to step into a new paradigm.
I’m asking for you to practice courage, because that’s how you get to the freedom–of seeing that what other people think of you truly has no bearing on you, and of how powerful it can be, what a collaborative experience it can be, to receive the feedback of others.
Things You Could Ask
I’ve asked friends and family all and any of these questions:
“Regarding [particular problem where I was stuck], tell me the honest truth. If you were me, what would you do?”
“Based on what you know of me, what does your gut say?”
“Is there anything that I’m missing, here?”
“Does this truly resonate with you?”
“What are three things that you’d suggest for improving this?”
“I’m very open to feedback and suggestions. What would make this even better?”
“Where am I currently being hard on myself?”
“Will you let me know if you sense that I’m hiding out, in some way?”
I’ve asked this about everything from inter-personal conflicts, to projects, to website sales pages, to e-programs.
What if It’s Mean?
Well, what if it’s mean? What if they are unkind? So what?
First of all, don’t sabotage yourself by directly asking people you know are going to be unkind because they’re in a space where they’re just kind of acting like an asshole with everyone. They’re limited in what they can truly offer you when they’re in that space.
Second of all, go ahead and put some boundaries in place. “I’m feeling tender around this…” “Could you phrase it so that I can hear it?” “I really want to get this, and I’m worried that I won’t if it’s not phrased gently.” In essence, the boundaries are about how you can get a bit vulnerable and ask for help in truly being able to hear what they have to offer.
Third, so what if it’s mean? It’s just feedback. It’s only mean if you say it’s mean. You can choose what to do, from there.
For instance, sometimes I get hate mail, and someone else’s feedback isn’t phrased with any intention whatsoever to give helpful feedback in the spirit of change or collaboration. Instead, they’re ranting. It’s destructive and unkind.
I choose what to do, from there…and sure as shit, I choose to hit delete.
It’s Your Choice
The feedback I’ve been given when I wasn’t expecting it has always been powerful to work with.
The most powerful feedback I’ve ever been given has been at those times when I directly asked for it, and then I got it–that person’s raw truth, because I asked for it.
What’s powerful is not the truth (though that’s helpful) or even that I asked.
What’s powerful is always how I decide to receive it. I’m in choice around that.
You are, too–so get started with asking for feedback. Ask people to share.
It will only hurt you as much as you choose to let it–which means that from this moment on, that could mean that feedback no longer has any power whatsoever over who you decide you are.