"You can't get better at either giving or receiving feedback if you don't understand what the purpose is that it's being given or received for," says author Douglas Stone. Effective feedback can increase productivity and harmony with teams. If this is true, why is it so difficult for us to give and
receive feedback? To explain why receiving feedback leads to conflicting desires, the need to grow and learn and the desire to be respected and accepted for who we are now, Douglas Stone, along with Sheila Heen, wrote Thanks for the Feedback. In this interview with Soundview, he discusses how to tell what type of feedback you're receiving, constructive use feedback, and how emotions affect feedback.
Soundview: How can people tell which of the three types of feedback they're receiving and if it's what they need?
Douglas Stone: Appreciation, this is the kind of feedback that we get that tells us that we're appreciated, that we're seen, that someone notices us in the workplace. Even if we worked on a project and it didn't go as well as we hoped, they can still appreciate the hard work.
Coaching I think is the key kind of feedback that we think about when we're talking about receiving feedback at work. Coaching is the thing that helps us get better at what we're doing. The third kind of feedback is what we call evaluation. This is the kind of feedback that tells us where we stand
in the world–where do we stand in terms of our goals; where do we stand in terms of our peers–and it kind of rates us. We need all three kinds of feedback.
Soundview: How could someone identify what could possibly be worth trying when they recognize differences in the feedback that they receive?
Stone: We're in that mindset of noticing what's wrong about the feedback. As soon as we find something that's wrong, we feel comfortable setting the feedback aside and ignoring it because you're not going to take feedback that's wrong. Listen to the feedback through the frame of
difference. You're coming from the assumption that okay, they may have a different view of this than I have, so why is it that they think this way and why do I think the opposite. If you come at it from that point of view of difference, you're left with a question for the both of you to
answer–"Why is it that we see this differently?" After you've had that conversation, you may come to a point where you say, "Okay, I don't think this is great advice for me," and you can set it aside. Or you may come to a place where you say, "Now that I really understand it, and now that I
understand where they're coming from I actually think this is going to be very useful feedback for me."
Soundview: If we know that there are ways that our emotions distort feedback, are there ways that we can dismantle that distortion of feedback?
Stone: The key, first, is to actually start noticing this pattern that we have of the way that our emotions do amplify or distort the feedback that we get. We get sort of a negative emotional rush, and then before you know it we're thinking. The thing to do in those situations,
once you notice the pattern, you can start winding it back and asking yourself very specific questions. Ask yourself, "Where am I with this?" You can then wind it back and say, "What was the actual feedback that I got?" You can start to put the feedback back in the box. You don't want to make the
box smaller than the real feedback. You're not trying to minimize the feedback. You're trying to make it the actual size that the feedback starts out.