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“We Thrive on Your Feedback”

April 26, 2016

The card in my hotel room said “We thrive on your feedback.” It encouraged me to tell them how they could improve and to explain what they did that was especially helpful. It occurred to me that we all thrive on feedback — both regarding how we can improve and what we do that is helpful.

We receive feedback all the time, but we often don’t think of it as receiving feedback. If someone nods in agreement during a conversation, they may be saying, “Yes, that makes sense…” or “OK, go on…”, which provides us with the feedback that informs our continued expression. We also get feedback when another car zips around us while we are driving down the interstate at the posted speed. They are letting us know that they aren’t happy driving behind us. Sometimes they indicate their displeasure more demonstratively with facial expressions or gestures as they pass. The feedback is clear.

The thought of giving and receiving feedback makes most people I’ve worked with a bit uncomfortable. If someone says, “Can I give you some feedback?” we assume it may be unpleasant or critical because people don’t generally feel the need to ask us first if they are going to give us a compliment. We also usually worry about how someone will receive our feeback if we are on the giving end of it. We are concerned about how it could affect our relationship with them; and if we care about them at all, we don’t want to hurt their feelings. Many equate giving feedback to inviting conflict.

The other problem is that when we receive feedback that feels critical, we may believe that we have failed in some way or that the issue at hand is the only thing the speaker knows about us. In any relationship, it is so important to tell people what they do well and how they contribute. It fills us up in our empty places.

We need to provide feedback to help someone grow or to let them bask in appreciation. If those are our motives, it’s going to be received well. On the other hand, if we provide feedback in a way that feels unkind or demeaning, or done simply to unload our frustration, we defeat the purpose. No growth will occur. Acknowledging what we know the person does well while explaining what they need to improve makes it much easier to hear feedback and act upon it. If our relationship is one that demonstrates that we care about the other person, our feedback will matter to them.

We all “thrive on feedback” if it’s given with the right intention. It’s how we know that someone cares enough about us to help us grow. Perhaps we could ask people similar questions to those on the card: “How could I improve?” and “What have I done that was especially helpful?” Maybe if we ask, people would be more inclined to tell us.

— by Kathleen Scott, PHI Organizational Change Consultant

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