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  • Writer's pictureJulie Love

Thank you!

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

From the Archive: November 2017

When we hear the word “feedback,” we tend to assume it’s criticism. We have to go out of our way to specify “positive feedback,” (or it’s passive-aggressive twin, “constructive criticism”). But it seems important to us to sort the comments we receive into good and bad, so that we can enjoy the good and merely endure the bad.

I get a lot of feedback in this job, from evaluations after in-service presentations to responses to my follow-up emails checking on consult issues. And I won’t lie, positive feedback feels great. I love it, warms my heart, brightens my day, all that good stuff. But I also really love negative feedback. It doesn’t feel great, but it IS great. When someone tells me what I’ve done wrong, it gives me the chance to fix it.

Too often, when we hear anything negative, we are thrown immediately into a defensive stance: I didn’t say that! Well, I didn’t mean it! They misunderstood me! We rush to reassure ourselves, rush to make ourselves feel better. The complainer missed the point, they don’t see the big picture, or they let their own internal agenda twist my words. They are wrong. Except they aren’t – they are absolutely accurate about what they heard, regardless of what I said.

And they probably aren’t alone. No one feels good when they get negative feedback, and people generally don’t want to make others feel bad. So people usually avoid giving negative feedback. For any one person who misheard me and told me about it, there could be ten people who heard the same inaccurate message, but didn’t tell me.

To the person who recently wrote on an evaluation that they were upset by what I said in my in-service: Thank you! It’s really hard to get criticized and respond with gratitude, but give it a try. Start with the assumption that you and the complainer share a goal: for you to do this task well. In my case, for me to convey the information in a manner which is accurate and promotes respect and compassion for those who struggle with mental and emotional issues. If someone heard my words as offensive, I clearly missed my goal. When they tell me about it, I have the chance to rework that portion of the presentation, to clarify and emphasize the point I want to make, and avoid making one I didn’t mean to. And by expressing gratitude for this opportunity, I hopefully reduce the “but I don’t want to make them feel bad” inhibition that could leave my future errors uncorrected.

So keep the feedback coming – both bad and good. I really do like them both.

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