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How to Ask for Honest Feedback Without Feeling Hurt

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 January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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