Feedback remains the compass guiding us on the path of self-discovery, a tool that validates our perception of self through the eyes of others. This quest for understanding is now more crucial than ever, permeating both personal and professional realms.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall; do I see me warts and all?”

This contemporary spin on the Snow White tale has been my personal narrative for quite some time. Initially, my mirror reflected a Snow White version of myself – results-driven, hardworking, and a people-person radiating positive energy. Little did I realise that, to others, I resembled the Wicked Witch of the West. The revelation came as a shock when someone finally opened up to me about their perspective.

My immediate response? Classic denial – blame – justify (DBJs, as we call it).

Denying anything other than sweetness and light, blaming everyone else, and justifying my behaviour to safeguard my ego – it was a challenging pill to swallow. However, as my mother wisely said, “where there is smoke, there is usually fire.”

Taking a moment to absorb the feedback, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery, aiming to align my inner and outer selves.

To gauge your relationship with feedback, consider whether you enjoy giving it. If not, chances are you’re not a fan of receiving it either. Feedback is a reciprocal exchange. Providing clarity on behaviours and attitudes, it is not necessarily confrontational or negative.

Imagine seeing yourself as a reserved, non-intrusive individual at work, not wanting to disturb your colleagues. However, your coworkers perceive you as aloof, perhaps even arrogant for not offering a simple greeting. This misalignment could impact your career and relationships significantly.

All it takes is someone sharing this perspective with you, typically received graciously since most of us are unaware of our behaviours and their impact. We’d likely be horrified to discover we come across as aloof and non-collaborative, just as I was when informed that my intense focus on business, not people, was overshadowing my team.

Consider your natural stance: Are you stuck in a D-B-J cycle? Some of us cling to denial, blame, justify for too long, missing out on the opportunity to reflect, learn, and grow through feedback.

Initial reluctance to feedback often stems from viewing it as a personal attack – either on the receiver’s or giver’s part. We fear hurting someone’s feelings or creating animosity, choosing silence over providing valuable insights that could spur growth.

Yet, reframing feedback to focus on performance or behaviour, rather than labelling a person, can make all the difference. Instead of saying, “Henry, you are lazy and have a poor attitude toward your job,” consider a specific approach like, “Henry, you have been 15 minutes late for the last three mornings – what’s that about?”

The key to feedback is to remember this piece of wisdom:

We may not remember what was said,
but we will always remember how it made us feel.
~ Maya Angelou

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