Growing From Feedback
August 19th, 2015
It is not always easy to grow from feedback. I know because I am someone who spent many years of life frustrated when I received feedback about myself that was offensive or just simply untrue in my opinion.
Feedback can come from anywhere. It can be solicited or unsolicited. It can makes sense to us or not. It can be helpful or not. It can be truthful or not. One way to decide whether or not to act on feedback given to you by others is to determine for yourself whether or not something is true. Often, if it is something that makes you upset or sticks with you, it is something to look at.
Many years ago, I was training data collectors to use a user interface I had designed. I was training people individually and we were in our own room, but the door was open and there were many offices near by. Months later, during review time, I was told that I talk down to people. The example given was that training. I was really distraught. It is something I have continued to think about for years. I had a great deal of experience as a teacher and tutor, so for someone to say I was talking down to someone while teaching them something really cut me. I didn’t agree with the feedback. I was upset by the feedback. Years later, I am still upset that someone felt this way because it is always my goal to be compassionate towards everyone and treating someone with disrespect is not compassionate.
A few weeks ago, I received feedback that I did agree with. I was teaching a class that ran from 6-10pm. I’m usually in bed by 9, so this was really late for me and in order to have the energy, I would often drink a coffee before class. I don’t drink coffee late at night for good reason, it gets me wired and I found myself sometimes talking too fast in class. I had notes to myself in my teacher’s guide about slowing down and covering some things a little too quickly. At the midpoint of the class, the students are sent out an anonymous survey. One of the students responded that I sometimes go a little too fast. I agreed. The rest of the class, I worked to slow down and continuously ask for questions. The class ended last week and the final anonymous surveys were sent out. Last night, I received a response. It was the same student. The student said that they had made a comment halfway through about my speed and then I had adjusted which was awesome. I was so happy! It is amazing to see instant gratification like that. When you make a change, you grow, and others notice, it really can be a great feeling!
It is not that the person who gave you the feedback needs to notice your change, or even that other people’s opinions of you matter at all, it is just nice to hear that something you were working to grow actually paid off.
This week, I was training a teacher on how to use software. We were meeting virtually and using a program that allowed me to see her screen as she went through the steps. We went step by step through things a couple of times until it really started making sense and it really clicked. At the end of the meeting she said “You are a real pleasure to work with. You never make me feel stupid when I can’t figure something out. I really enjoy working with you.”
I was thrilled! Not only is it really nice to hear someone say nice things about you, but it felt like complete recognition of my growth. Here I was, years after the initial feedback of talking down to someone while teaching them how to use a piece of software and someone I’m actually training on software says she appreciates me because I now do the exact opposite.
Sometimes, the fruit of our labors is delayed. Sometimes, it may never be recognized. But when something you are working to grow makes noticeable shifts that prove your growth, it truly is a great feeling.
These experiences taught me how important it is to really set goals for growth and work towards them. The feedback I received from others taught me that I would like to give more positive feedback to others. When I see positive traits in people (whether or not I have seen a difference between where they were before and where they are now) I want to acknowledge that. After all, you never know if that trait was something they had been working to grow in themselves.