Reality Bites … Good Feedback Rules
If you want to make your dreams come true, the first thing you have to do is wake up. ~J.M. Power
If feedback is the breakfast of champions, I want protein. The kind that sticks with me and sustains my energy. Feedback is the DNA of learning. Feedback is what sets apart the “good” from the “great.” The more friendly we are toward feedback, the more likely we will achieve mastery and fulfillment in whatever we seek.
This is true whether you are an athlete looking to improve your game, a business leader seeking to accelerate your company’s performance, or an individual looking for improved success and relationships.
As a master-trained NLP’er, I know the rule: “There is no such thing as failure, only feedback.”
The truth is that for most people, our relationship with feedback is like meeting a German Shepherd: We are glad for the warning of danger, but suspicious of what it might do if we reach out to it.
The origins of this “arms-length” relationship with feedback are at least in part, cultural. When your ancestors spent 300 years shedding blood and protesting for independence, individualism, and free expression, it puts a certain stake in the ground – one that over centuries, has helped us de-emphasize what others want, think and feel, and focus on what WE want, think and feel.
Generations later, “being told what to do” kind of cramps our style. We want what we want, when we want it, just the way we want it. Why should we have to deal with mundane stuff like physics, magnetism, gravity … or the rights of others?
Reality bites, yes. But NLP’ers have discovered the internal “mechanics” of highly effective people: The ability to use feedback to learn and improve, without taking it personally.
Consider our fascination with Olympic athletes. Every 4 years, we get to witness a handful of unusually committed people who perform in ways that shatter limits — and world records. The difference between a “gold-medal” performance and last place is so subtle it’s often undetectable. This is the pinnacle of feedback-driven human performance.
And for them, it started a decade or more earlier.
Feedback is a built-in survival mechanism, like when a child touches a hot stove. But somewhere between hyper-critical parents and a history of success, we start thinking we know best. The new stockbroker who used a poorly timed market sale to adjust his process, after years of success looks for ways to hide those mistakes. The guy who welcomed “helpful hints” on how to dress from his new wife, now hears them and goes off to find the cruddiest t-shirt in his closet.
A colleague of mine is the CEO of a software company. His program solves a problem almost every company has: Improving communication and accountability that often derail critical strategies and goals. The software premise is brilliant. The execution is buggy, cumbersome, and filled with complexity. Every time the CEO gets feedback about his software, I watch the Great Wall of China defenses arise, usually pointing at the customer or the internet as the problem. Meanwhile, customers are not renewing licenses, he’s in a lot of debt, and the fear cycle is beginning to create an even greater defensiveness to feedback.
Holding onto a “critical parent-rebellious child” relationship with feedback is pretty common in our society: We really do not enjoy being told what to do or hearing that we might be wrong. It is like being scared of all dogs because you were bit once. Or telling your golf coach you prefer to stay with your old swing because his advice makes you uncomfortable. Why shoot the messenger?
Change this one pattern within yourself, and you will open up a new world to getting what you want out of life. A life in which you embrace change, use it to adapt and adjust to your environment, and become more capable of fulfilling your hopes, wishes, and dreams.
In this article and next week, Coach Lou offers a 2-part NLP lesson on how to change your feelings about feedback, read “missed signals” earlier and sooner, and adjust accordingly.
This pattern works best as you are learning it, if you are concerned about preserving a relationship with the person who gave you the feedback, such as a boss or a spouse.
1.Think of an event where you received feedback AND did not respond to it in a useful way. Pick an example where you think there may be a kernel of truth to the feedback but you couldn’t find it or take it in (avoid an example of someone nagging or treating you unfairly).
2.Now, briefly re-play the event in your mind but watch it like it’s a movie on the big screen and you’re sitting in the audience. (This is Movie #1).
3.After you’ve watched Movie #1 — ask yourself: “What was the positive intention of the person delivering it?” (unless they are psycho, people don’t ordinarily offer feedback to torture others. If you were giving this feedback, what would your positive intention be?). By the way, we’ll deal with whether the feedback was useful or not in Part 2.
4.Now, imagine another person giving you feedback in the role of your Coach, whom you just paid a lot of money to help you get to the Olympics. Now, create a second movie of your Olympic Coach, who you trust and paid to give you feedback. What are their non-verbals, what’s the quality of their voice, and how do you feel while they’re giving you feedback?
5.Now, go back to Movie #1 with this change: Have the person who gave you the original feedback, behave in the same way as your Coach as they give you the same feedback, with different non-verbal behavior and voice tonality. It helps for you to remember their positive intention while they’re delivering the feedback.
6.Notice what changes, especially your feelings.
7.Future pace: Imagine the next time you might be in a similar situation with someone you know providing feedback. Run the movie of the “Coach’s” style of providing feedback. Repeat three times. Expect to be surprised at how differently you feel about it!
You’ll find a more about useful feedback in our “NLP Portable Practitioner Training” Section 1, Sensory Acuity Formats and Being Resources for Each Other, & Section 2, Well Formedness Conditions.