Giving and Receiving Criticism: How Am I Driving?

–Three Tips to Making Feedback Work Better

It happened again!  A work truck of some sort pulled in front of me and cut me off.  There on the back of the truck was one of those all-to-familiar bumper stickers which said, “How am I driving?”  Then, like usual, the sticker has a long phone number and a code I am supposed to enter to identify this particular vehicle and driver.

How in the world am I supposed to get all those numbers down when the driver just cut me off and raced away?  There is really no way I can catch up with him let alone remember all those numbers.  I don’t think this company really means it when they solicit feedback on their drivers.

Even more, I might be tempted to call in and complain, but I don’t.  It is just too much trouble.  Not only that, but I don’t believe it will make any difference.  Once again, I get cut off and don’t feel it would do any good to talk to anyone about it.

Then, I get to thinking.  How would I feel if I had a sticker like this on my car?  I don’t ask for feedback on my driving?  I get it all the time from my family!  Why would I want to invite feedback from others?  Why am I not open and making it easy for someone to comment on my performance on the road?  And not on just the asphalt road, but in life…

Businessman Ken Blanchard has said that “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”  If that is true, then why are so many of us skipping breakfast?  Truth be told, most of us don’t want feedback, most of us have not had a good experience with feedback, and most of us would just like to believe that we are doing fine.  It is just so much easier.

Additionally, many organizations, agencies, and organizations who claim to have a feedback-rich environment, are really just flashing meaningless bumper stickers trying to communicate their so-called openness, yet make it almost impossible to even give the feedback.

Let’s face it here!  Feedback is hard to give and even harder to receive.  We all want to believe that we are doing well and doing fine.  Not one of us likes to be told we need to improve or change.  That is uncomfortable.  It might even be maddening.  Very few of us have had a good experience with feedback.  We don’t know how to give it.  We struggle to know how to receive it.

In a quick internet search on the importance of feedback, there are over 400 million hits, most touting how feedback is essential in business, education, government, relationships, and more.  If you want to grow, they say, you have to have feedback.  No one grows without feedback.

To use a driving metaphor (because that is my thing!), imagine me teaching my son to drive and never giving him any feedback.  Suppose, I just handed the keys to him, got in the passenger seat, and laid back for a nap?  You are probably laughing at the thought of this.  First, no one has ever slept comfortably in a car with a teenage driver.  Second, there is no possible way he could ever learn and grow without some sort of commentary and support on how he is doing.  I know I will get no rest with this method of teaching.  It is clear that feedback is essential for any growth to occur.

So, please consider these three suggestions to increase feedback in your home, family, and business life.  Then, please give me some feedback on how it went!

Learn how to receive feedback

Because it can be difficult to receive feedback, it may be helpful to have some guidelines to receiving feedback positively.  The first step is to simply listen.  You have two ears and one mouth so that you can listen more.  Just listen when other people offer their opinions and perspective.

Second, remind yourself that it is not important to agree with the person offering the feedback.  You do not have to see it the way they do.  They have their unique point of view and you have yours.  This is as it should be.  Just tell yourself this is their view and allow them to speak.

Finally, take what is true and apply it and then discard the rest.  You do not need to agree with the feedback.  You also do not need to take all of it.  Take what helps and works and apply it.  It is perfectly okay to set aside anything not relevant or helpful.

Be gracious

While there may be some exceptions, I believe most people who offer feedback are sincere and only wish to be helpful.  Normally, people like managers and spouses, have good intentions and are trying to be helpful.  Most likely, they care about us and are just trying to have things be better.

Also, feedback is difficult to give.  Likely, this individual trying to give you feedback is very uncomfortable and unsure.  She is probably afraid of hurting your feelings, starting a fight, and even being retaliated against.  They may even be required by someone else to give you this feedback.  It is not easy to do.

So, it is always good to be gracious.  Invite the person into your office or your room and have an attitude of gratitude that this person cares enough to speak up and share this feedback.  Express appreciation for the time and the feedback.  Value the person, then refer back to the first principle above.

Start asking for feedback

The best way to have a positive experience with feedback is to invite feedback.  It works best when an individual asks for the feedback.  When a person wants to grow, progress, change, improve, and excel, it is so much easier to assist.  This process really gets moving smoothly when she invites that feedback.  Instead of waiting for someone to come to you, go to them.

When you begin to sincerely invite feedback, with a grateful attitude, and an intent to act upon that which applies, then real growth happens. 

When you demonstrate openness to correction and improvement, you get better help.  Additionally, you can ask for help when and where you most need it.  If you wish, you can ask for further help and be open to whatever the other has to say.  Either way, when you are open or inviting it, feedback is just so much easier.

So, let’s all get some bumper stickers for our lives that say “How am I driving?” and paste them on our backs!  Then, with a grateful attitude, let’s invite people in our lives to give us feedback on our performance.  When we apply the parts that fit, we will get farther down the roads of life.  We will navigate more clearly.


Jim R. Jacobs
Jim R. Jacobs
Jim R Jacobs is a brave creator who strives to do mighty things! Jim is a Certified Daring Way Facilitator helping others to live more brave and authentic lives! He is the author of Driving Lessons For Life: Thoughts on Navigating Your Road to Personal Growth. Jim speaks professionally, and coaches others to success and living with integrity. He is a counselor, educator, innovator, father, and friend. Please check out Jim R. Jacobs and Driving Lessons For Life and find Jim on social media! Let's connect and dare mighty things!

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