Monday, 21 March 2016

The Feedback Filter ... Who Makes the Cut?

Any self-development, business or leadership content you read these days suggest you get feedback from your target audience.

Last blog I talked about having conversations that matter and speaking into each other's lives.

But when I reflected more on the idea of just having more conversations (without boundaries), I realized that lately I don't take feedback from everyone on every topic. Sure there are some things that I will open up for more public debate (you know, new wall color or flooring, fencing options for our new dog pen, new vehicle purchases) but there are somethings I will NOT accept input on from just anyone.

Why the censoring?

We live in a culture that has learned to embrace failure, almost as a trendy necessity to success. I mean, who doesn't love a great "rise from the ashes" story to pump you up for your next big endeavor. There are even failure conventions.  REALLY.

I have some failures already in my pocket, and being the creative and curiosity-driven kind of adventurer that I am, I know I will have more.  I have some very trusted friends, family and advisers who I will share these moments of struggle, strife and personal development with.

But they have to make it through the "Feedback Filter".

This is a short and intuitive process I've developed (in my head) to determine whether someone is safe to let into the personal feedback zone.

I naturally struggle with criticism and critique.  I far prefer to be awesome right out of the gates ... study and perfect to nauseum before presenting or launching anything.  But this isn't always possible (or practical or smart). So we turn out things that are a work-in-progress.

Heck I myself am a work in progress.  And I always will be.

So when I'm looking for feedback on something I've done, a new skill I've picked up, my attitudes, approaches and behaviors and whether or not they will support or inhibit my goals, I look for a little feedback.  I am very careful though about those from whom I will elicit this commentary.

The 'feedback filter' serves to tell me many things about a potential candidate's worthiness to speak into the most vulnerable part of my life. The vital component and question regarding said candidate's requirements ...

Are you out there getting your ass kicked?  Or have you recently? 

No I'm not just a jerk who wants to see others get knocked down.

I do want to ensure that those who are sharing their insights into my own struggles, failures and shortcomings are other people who are also out there trying. 

In her book Rising Strong, Brene Brown (yes I love her, as you can now likely tell!) advises:

"We need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives.  For me, if you're not in the arena getting your ass kicked, I'm not interested in your feedback."

I've developed kind of a mental list of people I admire, respect and trust because they are the people who know what its like to be there. In that place where you are taking extraordinary risk (maybe psychologically, emotionally, financially) to reach a crazy goal you are passionate about.

Maybe you are launching a new idea or changing careers.  You could be deciding to do something completely different than your family, friends or colleagues expect of you.

In these vulnerable, exciting, terrifying and wonderful adventures we need to solicit feedback from people who are (or have recently been) in the same kinds of situations.  People who are moving bravely toward their own goals, failing and getting back up. (Note: If they moved toward a brave goal 25 years ago, failed and never tried again, I might not include them my list of candidates.)

If I am wondering if I have what it takes to start up with my new idea, if I am looking for some assessment (honestly and openly) about my strengths and weaknesses, or if I'm just looking for someone to bounce ideas off of, I have a fairly short list of people I consult.

A handful really. Depending on the specific arena I'm entering ...2, maybe 5 people.

And here's the touchy part (I'm wincing one eye as I write this).

It might not be who YOU want it to be. 

It may not be your spouse, sibling, best friend or parent.  These people LOVE you. So much.

They may not be able to honestly reflect on your character strengths and weaknesses for fear of hurting or upsetting you. Or you may be unable to process their feedback without overloading it with innuendo, unspoken assumptions or baggage.  You may just read way too much into it.

You also have to consider that they might not be willing to see you fail at all.  They may try to thwart your efforts or sabotage your plans in an effort to save you from hurt.

Of course, if you are a brave and relentless warrior for change their attempts to stop you may be more painful than the failure would have ever been.

But that IS NOT their intent.

Or maybe they've never taken any risks.  Maybe they have personalities that reside in the "always play-it-safe" category.  Maybe they are not big on self-reflection in their own lives.

You need people on your feedback "safe" list who are open, honest and vulnerable themselves and have their own story of bravery and heartbreak to share. If you choose to share with people you love and they do not have these pre-requisites you will end up resenting them or their feedback.

There will be times, if you are truly moving towards growth and peace that you will need some reflection from others. Honest, raw, authentic and truthful feedback.  And you will need skills in vulnerability, self-compassion and courage in order to take it and make it into something productive. Just make sure that those who you request feedback of (or those who you allow to voluntarily thrust it upon you) are others in the same boat.

Once you are super comfortable receiving feedback openly and vulnerably and assessing it with clarity, calmness and authenticity, then you may try widening your circle.

But this takes immense strength and preparation.  You will know when you are ready because it will be far more exciting and helpful than it is terrifying or painful.

It will be worth it. 

We live, grow and develop in community.  Feedback is an essential part of this.  So ensure that yours (both that which you receive and that which you give) is meaningful, loving and honest.

It will push you forward to new levels you never imagined.

Bravely forth in this my friends,

Jac :)

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