Recently a wonderful opportunity was presented and I was reacquainted with an old friend, a tool that has lead me through countless changes and one that continues to point out the little things that I need to work on . That tool of course is feedback.
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to discount feedback from others when it does not feel great? Sure sometimes the feedback feels wonderful, and we take that information and believe it straight away, reinforcing the oh so wonderful view of ourselves that we have, but that exact same person can share something that is constructive, but perhaps a bit harsh, and we immediately begin to rationalize the information, or completely dismiss it as false, or worst case, decide that the person is not even a friend of ours if they would make up such lies…
Yet negative feedback can be the only way to identify parts of ourselves that we might wish to change, the view from the outside looking in after all, is nearly always very different than the view from the inside looking out. (I assure you it is in my case).
One example of this is found in another useful little tool that has been around for a very long time called a Johari Window This little guy is a diagram of both self, and also groups and it shows the four areas of perception which are listed below.
- That which we know about ourselves, and which other people also know. (Open/Free)
- That which we know about ourselves, but which is hidden from others. (Hidden)
- That which is hidden from us, but is obvious to those around us. (Blind)
- That which is hidden from both ourselves and others. (Unknown)
The diagram looks like this;
In this image, the lines dividing each of the areas is equal, however this is nearly never an accurate representation, we as people who are in relationship with others, typically have a great deal of stuff that is not in the open. The following is an example of a new team member for example.
As you can see, the Open/Free area is very small, while the remaining areas are larger. This group dynamic will never function at high levels, unless something is changed, and that work is all about communication. In order to change both ourselves, and the group dynamic, we need to exchange information.
The only way to decrease the Hidden area, is to reveal information to others.
The only way to decrease the Blind area is to accept feedback from others (a bit tricky as we have already established.)
The only way to decrease the Unknown area is through discovery, a process that becomes easier and easier as the other areas are reduced, and the Open/Free area becomes dominant as shown below.
The primary focus of our topic today, is feedback, and the use of feedback as a tool for change. So lets focus on that for a moment, and here is the key. Harsh feedback can be difficult for us to take, and you have to prepare your mind to receive it.
In order to prepare your mind for negative feedback, the kind that might actually reveal parts of yourself that you are blind to… you have to solicit the information. Yep, you have to ask for it. You see if you ask for the feedback, and you prepare yourself to hear some things you dont like, you have a much higher chance of believing it, and then changing that part of yourself through whatever process works best. Sometimes its just repeatedly receiving the feedback, and other times you have to take on new challenges, or work differently in order to change whatever it is, that we want to change.
Say for example that you believe you are funny when you make sarcastic comments, but when you ask a group of peers, you get feedback that suggests you are offensive. Because you asked for the information, you take it to heart and over time, you begin to notice that the sarcasm is not appreciated by others, and that they perceive you as thinking you are better than them. You decide to take the feedback and change this behavior, and you stop making sarcastic comments. Shortly thereafter, you begin to notice that people seem happier to hang out and speak with you, and that you have better relationships.
This example is very basic and short, and often the things about ourselves that we want to change are not so obvious, but it serves to illustrate the example.
The bottom line, is that feedback is an incredibly powerful tool for showing you things about yourself that you may not even be aware of, and to increase its effectiveness you have to ask for the feedback.
Try it, each time I do, I am in the end happy with the changes that I have made, and I feel like I have grown. My hope is that your experience is the same.
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