Secure Enough to Receive Feedback?
The observer-part of me witnesses a behaviour by me, that does not serve me. On a ‘bad’ day, I can react to feedback, however well intentioned, very badly!
Ever had that defensive, prickly, spikey feeling when a comment is made about something you have done? Well that’s the mix of fear and the accompanying adrenaline rush, that makes us want to fight something, perhaps because it might just be true?
Yep! I get it! Sometimes this is just gonna happen. We care for the project, we do kind of know we could have put a bit more into it, and, we are stretched in a million different directions…..
Firstly, in the moment, we can choose one of two reactions; I sometimes (rather inelegantly!) instantly adopt the defensive stance. I will evidence everything and everyone else who’s ‘fault’ it was, in order to protect my heart and my ego. This rarely works out well!
Or I could choose to hear what is said, ask for time to consider it, process the emotions (in private as opposed to in the middle of the workplace!), and. return to the conversation with the bits that are true for me. I may need to make amends. I may need to learn something new from this. I am learning that fighting for my bruised territory will block any of the benefits of this process.
We cannot learn without feedback. We cannot make the most of feedback if we cannot allow ourselves to hear it. We cannot hear feedback if we are defended against it and are unable to see it is valuable . Whilst it may not all have value, if it has hit a raw-nerve, you can bet there will be something pertinent in there.
There could also be wider questions raised by defensiveness. It might not be the criticism Itself that is the problem: Firstly, a prickly response may be a sign of another imbalance in your life. Are you working too hard? Getting enough sleep? Suffering other personal or professional stresses? A reactive response might serve to bring your attention to the notion of ‘enlightened self care’. This is the belief that if you do not attend to your own needs first, then you are rendered impotent in attending to the needs of others…. Just planting that seed.
The other cause of defensiveness in the face of what could seem like the most useful feedback, can be as a reaction to the context in which it is given. Sometimes if an organisational culture is of a fear based nature, then every employee will be feeling unsafe. It is this lack of security that can render feedback so painful. If we feel deeply insecure in our work environment, any ‘noticing’ by others can hurt. If we are hurting we can rarely find the nugget of truth within any of this.
So. In short, if you experience as series of defensive responses to feedback, there might be a wider context to consider. Attend to this inquiry and you will be free to engage with learning openly once again.
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