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How to Ask for Honest Feedback Without Feeling Hurt

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How to Ask for Honest Feedback Without Feeling Hurt

Ever since childhood, our parents and school teachers were constantly correcting and directing us by teaching the difference between right and wrong, and how to behave appropriately. We have been shaped by feedback, as we were always submerged in a “feedback pool.”

Somehow we have tricked ourselves into believing that no news usually implies good news. “If I don’t receive any feedback, then that must mean that I’m doing a great job and nothing needs to be improved. Right?” Unfortunately, not always. Many people are reluctant to give feedback because they feel that they may come across as bossy, or start a conflict.

We never learned how to actively consult for feedback, so we are typically very passive when it comes to receiving it.

This is because we receive less feedback as we age. Our parents and teachers start to back off a bit. This could be because they become more conscious on the impression that they leave on us, or they believe that it’s time we shape ourselves as people. True as that may be, many people don’t have the ability to fully self-reflect and find what needs improvement. We need some sort of guidance from an outside perspective to point out the variables that we can’t notice ourselves.

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People are reluctant to give feedback, and even more reluctant to receive it.

Not receiving feedback from others does not always mean that we are doing a good job. In fact, it can cause a rift in our performance because we have no direction in terms of the progress we have already made, and how to approach oncoming tasks.

The absence of feedback creates a bias

Self-reflection is a vital practice for improvement, but if you think you can quickly improve by relying solely on your own self-review, you are sorely mistaken.  We develop a certain perspective when we perform, and we follow the path and practices that we think will bring us the most success.

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If we only look at things from our own perspective, then all of our decisions are influenced by bias because we only consider one side of the coin. This practice of only accepting information that supports your perspective is called confirmation bias. The lack of feedback feeds into the idea that your way is the right way, because no one has ever challenged you or suggested any sort of improvement.  That’s why relying only on self-reflection is not impossible, but takes a lot more effort and time.

So it’s very important to get feedback from an outsider perspective. You will be forced to consider variables that had never occurred to you, and in the end improve your performance.

Asking for feedback can be very intimidating. You’re essentially asking people to tell you what you’ve been doing wrong and point out your flaws. There are techniques to safely ask for feedback and appropriately digest the information, equipping you to use to it your advantage.

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The way that you approach for feedback will influence the way that you receive it

Feedback will only be helpful if you choose to accept it positively, and use it as momentum to improve.  Resist the natural reaction to take things personally, because this information is a chance to grow and learn. If you allow yourself to be offended, you will never accept the information on a factual level. In other words, buck up and take it.

It’s okay to feel bad because it’s not easy to hear that you’re anything less than perfect. Especially when it feels like an attack on your livelihood. But you can’t doubt yourself because of this, or try to explain away the criticism.  Just assume that whoever is giving you this feedback wants to see you improve.  And once you know what needs to change, all you need to do is get out there and do it.

The key is to pick the RIGHT person and frame your question accordingly

You want to choose someone that you trust and respect, and who really has a firm grasp on the topic at hand.  They should have experience facing the obstacles that are coming your way, and will provide you with honest feedback and advice on how to overcome them.

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How you approach receiving feedback is crucial as well. It is not enough to ask someone that you admire. They may not be properly trained on how to give feedback appropriately as teachers are. So you need to be prepared with questions to ask them so that you receive answers within your scope of expectation.

For example: If you want to improve your speech presentation, you need to ask questions directly related to that. Instead of asking what they think about a certain aspect as a whole, ask what specifically could be improved. The broad question of, “what do you think of my ____?” leaves room for personal judgment, and even more room to get offended. By carefully asking questions, you will be directing their focus towards a solution.

Create a positive Feedback Loop

Taking in feedback is never easy if you only see it as criticism instead of a chance to improve.  Thinking of it as a fast track to achieve what you want will make you feel less offended and motivates you to ask for more feedback.  Last of all, you must act on the feedback given and apply it!  At Lifehack, we encourage everyone to get feedback fast, and get it early during the learning process.  Like running up a staircase, each time you receive and apply feedback you’re creating a feedback loop that helps you make upward progress.  Going up stairs step by step is much easier than having to suddenly climb up a wall.  So have confidence and be proactive.  With this perspective, you’ll find that getting the right feedback is like gold – it can save you hours of wasted effort and accelerate your progress by leaps and bounds.

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Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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