An Exercise In Feedback For The Brave


If you are brave enough, I have an interesting suggestion for you that could be extremely beneficial to you both personally and professionally. It has the potential to reveal your character and enlighten you to how you are perceived by others. Knowing how you come across to others; how they see you, can either confirm the impressions you wish to create, or give you the information you need which could form the basis of making some changes so you come across as you would like.

How we are perceived by others can help us professionally when it comes time to apply for promotions as one example. If the job we want calls for someone with tact, leadership abilities or sound decision-making skills, it would be essential that those in our workplace see those qualities in us on a day-to-day basis. If they don’t see these qualities in us as we go about our work, how could we realistically expect them to see us these ways in another position? When the time comes that we are being evaluated for a promotion, those who interview us are not only going to go on what we tell them in an interview, they are going to look at our performance in the workplace. Our presents jobs therefore; or more accurately how we act and behave in our current jobs, are going to have a big influence in the future job interview we undertake.

The suggestion I have to make is this: Consider asking your colleagues to give you some honest feedback. The thing about honest feedback is that it’s easy to both give and hear when it’s all good isn’t it? Sure it is. When someone says you’re compassionate, understanding, positive and sincere it can’t help but make you feel pretty good. On the other hand, if you were told you are unreliable, inconsistent, and rigid in your thinking or overbearing – that might be harder to take. In fact, you might feel the urge to defend yourself, question and probe for specific examples, maybe even dismiss the feedback altogether as just wrong.

When seeking personal feedback on how you come across to others, the best always comes from identified sources; where people take ownership for their comments. Anonymous comments can be useful of course in freeing up people to tell you things they couldn’t bring themselves to say to your face, but they also free up people to be unintentionally hurtful and overly blunt. Most importantly, if you took your feedback to heart and made some changes, you wouldn’t know the person who made a certain comment so you could ask them if they’ve noticed a change in you in the future.

If you undertake such an exercise, it is essential to come across as genuinely interested in your colleagues valued opinion. Comments like, “You’re amazing”, “Awesome”, “You’re beautiful” are nice but entirely of no help. These comments are so vague they provide no tangible feedback on what makes you perceived as amazing or awesome. The same is true were you to be told, “You’re difficult”, “Hard” or “Intolerable”.  It is important therefore that if you seek out feedback from your peers, you do so with some thought put into how you ask, and what you ask for.

This is no low-risk activity to be done at some team meeting where people come in ill-prepared and write a comment or two on a slip of paper and slid it over the person concerned. That feedback will have little if any long-term impact and people will be inclined to write down things they believe will make you feel good and avoid real feedback you can muse over.

The best way to get the feedback that will ultimately be of greatest value is to ask a colleague if they’d be willing to sit down with you in private and give you some honest feedback because you value their opinion. It’s not about them, it’s about you wanting to check in on how others perceive you, to see if how you think you are coming across matches the reality for others or not. They will be suspicious no doubt; wondering why them, and if you targeted them specifically or are speaking with everyone. It’s essential to give them some time to gather their thoughts even if they agree immediately; and to tell them you want sincere and honest feedback.

In such an exercise, you will have to prepare yourself to record what they say without reaction or judgement. If your body language or words communicate anger, annoyance, defiance etc. at the slightest negative comment they make, the person will shut down and likely not tell you what you most need to hear. Best to record, be appreciative and hold all your comments for another time, so they have the freedom to share uninterrupted.

If you do this exercise every so often with a few different people, you’ll get valuable insight into how you are characterized and viewed by others. This valuable information can lead you to work on flaws, reinforce qualities you see as desired, and most importantly help you identify jobs that might be best suited to someone like yourself.

There are electronic tools on the net that you can use to get others impressions of you, but the face-to-face interview works best to draw out insights, observations and honest feedback.

Something to consider.

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