How To Accept and Leverage Constructive Feedback: Distance vs. Connection

      If someone asked you if your behaviour creates emotional distance with others how would you answer?

      During a recent leadership coaching session I was debriefing the results of the Epiphany Coaches RQ Relationship Intelligence ToolTM with my client, a senior leader at a well-known global tech company.

      Prior to the debrief we talked about how important collaboration is in her role and where she would rate herself in terms of her connection with others.

       “I’m very sociable and get along well with others,” she said. “I think I have pretty good relationships, there are not too many people I don’t enjoy working with and I think others enjoy working with me,” she added, “so I would rate myself pretty high.”

      When we reviewed her results, she expressed shock at her low overall RQ score. As we dove deeper into her results we landed in the element of Candor and more specifically how she takes feedback. She admitted that she takes feedback very personally.

      After much discussion she saw how her behaviour upon receiving feedback often shuts the other person down. Even though she thinks she has good relationships and strong connections with others, she realized that her behaviour around receiving feedback is actually creating distance from others.

      I asked her how often others give her feedback now that she has been with the company for a while.  She reflected for several minutes and came back with, “not often.”

      Receiving feedback is difficult for most people. Even those of us who say we are very committed to our own growth and development, it still stings when someone tells us that some thing we are doing is having a negative impact.

      I'm ready to dive deeper!

      Sometimes feedback is wrong, or just poorly given. 

      However, our ability to sift through the delivery and see the gift in the feedback is what can lead to more powerful connections with others.

      As Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen write in their book, Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, feedback makes “our relationships richer, our self-esteem more secure, and of course, we learn–we get better at things and feel good about that.”

      And research shows that employees who seek feedback have higher performance ratings, and in general, report higher levels of job satisfaction. Outside of work, people who are open to feedback are easier to live with and be around 

      Moving from Distance to Connection

      The next time someone gives you feedback try these steps:

      • Notice your emotional reaction – Does the feedback trigger something in you? If so, what is getting triggered? Is it the person delivering the feedback or is it the message itself? Are they hitting a nerve on something in which you already feel a bit insecure?

      • Take a deep breath or two – This will give you a moment to regroup. Deep breathing helps your body and brain achieve a state of calm.
      • Get curious, ask questions - Even if you wholeheartedly disagree with the person’s feedback, ask for more specific information to fully understand their point of view. In coaching we have a concept of ‘the 2% truth’. Every piece of feedback has at least a little bit of truth in it and that piece of truth can be a great gift.
      • Say ‘Thank You’ and mean it – Even if you disagree with the feedback it is the act of listening to the person without getting defensive and thanking them for being courageous enough to bring this to your attention that builds and deepens true connection.
      • Let them know what you are going to do differently as a result of their courageous conversation with you – if you do nothing with the feedback, you have just given that person a very strong message…this is where the Distance increases!

      For this particular senior leader, the feedback about her inability to receive feedback was the greatest gift she could have received.

      We acknowledged and agreed that receiving feedback isn’t easy…however: how you receive feedback, will either create distance or greatly deepen your connections with others.

      Now that she has this new found knowledge she has a plan for receiving and leveraging future feedback.

      What's your plan ? Let us know by commenting below! 


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