Book Reports

Thanks for the Feedback

I’ve been a little behind on my reading, though not on my collecting of books to read (yes, I still read actual paper books – not sure if I’ll ever be able to give them up). The pile seems to be growing bigger and bigger, thanks to recommendations, interesting articles and finding new favorite authors. Based on a great recommendation, I’m currently reading Thanks for the Feedback, by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. I’m about a third of the way through, so I’m sure there will be more gems to come, but the very premise of the book is one of the more fascinating ideas. Often with feedback, the focus is on the person giving the feedback, but Stone and Heen suggest that we’ve been approaching this wrong – the focus needs to be on the receiver of the feedback. In fact, the subtitle of their book suggests it from the start: “The science and art of receiving feedback well, even when it is off base, unfair, poorly delivered, and, frankly, you’re not in the mood.”

I love this for a couple reasons. Sure, we could all be better at giving feedback. We can improve on our word choice, have better timing and think more about where the other person may be coming from. And we should do those things. Focusing on the receiver of feedback doesn’t let us off the hook for giving feedback in positive and constructive ways. However, what resonates most with me about this approach is the fact that how I receive the feedback is something I have a say in. I can’t control much about how feedback is given to me – it comes when it comes and how it comes. But how I react to it, interpret it and absorb it is entirely up to me. And I do see how I can be better at that. What a powerful perspective. No longer am I totally at the mercy of the person offering me the feedback – I now have a say in how the conversation goes and what I choose to do with the feedback. And I’m getting tools to do it more effectively.

The book goes on to talk about what triggers us into shutting out feedback or not really hearing what’s being said, and I can’t wait to read the rest and learn more about the strategies and suggestions offered. In the meantime, I’ll be on the lookout for feedback and ready to welcome it, hopefully feeling more prepared to sift through it and embrace what resonates with me.

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