When feedback hurts.

Originally posted on 15 Aug 2015

While writing my last blog post which was all about putting feedback in its rightful place – as useful data – I got to thinking about when it feels obtrusive and hurtful.

Some feedback is like water off a ducks back and at other times it pierces your soul and cripples your confidence.

I started thinking about when feedback feels painful.

  • When I am busy and short of time – I push the big flat hand in the givers face, my tether is short, I don’t give it the attention it deserves.
  • When I am doing something new, complex or hard – my thinking brain is focussed on getting it right and my social skills are not top priority, the feedback is not welcome.
  • When I have invested everything on the outcome– oh you know this one, it’s exactly how you feel on interview or promotion day?  If it goes your way, great, if it doesn’t your whole future spirals away.
  • When I feel threatened – perhaps someone around me is being political and trying to win points, perhaps I know I am going to come last, perhaps I can’t keep the act up any more.
  • When their comments align with my own beliefs– bringing my inner critic right to the front and centre of my brain.  For me, this is by far the biggest influence on how I feel about the feedback I receive and the more I believe their input to be true the more it hurts. It’s like getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar.

…. I am sure there are loads more and that you have your own examples

In all of these it’s obvious that I am not functioning normally and feedback may trigger a negative reaction.

I bet you can recall a time when feedback sparked frustration, aggression, fear, self-doubt or feeling of being bullied, disliked, lonely, incapable, on the outside – all are painful.

Neuroscience research suggests that when we are in a negative place emotionally we are in comparatively more physical pain that when we are feeling positive. There are loads of articles on this but here is a super scientific one that I really liked but had to concentrate on click here

Plus research tells us post-operative recovery may be longer for those with a negative emotional state.

As I interpret it means: -ve emotions = -ve resilience = +ve pain

So at times of low resilience even well-intentioned feedback is likely to feel more hurtful.

So what can we do about it?  The big message is – BUILD RESILIENCE.

  • Care for yourself emotionally, there are so many ways this is good from managing burnout to improving your relationships to feeling more comfortable in your own skin.  I am not kidding look after your emotions – even the scientists seem to say you need them to be tip top.
  • Manage your wellbeing, exercise, meditate, eat well, sleep and nourish your creativity.
  • Every time you receive feedback that hurts stop and take a moment to recognise your situation.
  • Actually take more time if you need it, a day, a week or even months are all good – let’s face it if you notice something you don’t like you’ll need time to process it.
  • Take ownership, invest in yourself, and use external independent support like a coach or a counselor if you are going round in circles or if you hit dark times.
  • Once you are through the pain look at the feedback again and review it as data and gather new sources.  See how I linked to my last blog 😉
  • Get a good mentor (someone independent) to help you analyse the data, to keep your grounded and to hold up a mirror so you can see your behaviour.
  • Practice receiving feedback, managing how your respond is a skill that you need to nurture.

A final observation sometimes feedback is so hard that we seek reasons to dismiss it, “my manager is rubbish”, “they don’t know me”, “if they saw the big picture then…”, “they aren’t as senior as me so …”, “change, they can’t possibly get it”

When that happens we are losing an opportunity to know more about the relationship the feedback-er has with us and we miss an opportunity to see where it might be helpful to know ourselves more.   We choose to side step opportunities to be more robust, hardier, more feisty, to have more bounce, to be more supple and to flourish.

Again …. Every time you receive feedback that hurts stop and take a moment to recognise your situation because caring for your emotional resiliency can help
Good to chat.

Sue x

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