Feedback 2 – this time it’s personal

Yesterday’s entry looked at how organisations (not just the one that I work for!) can react to feedback.  Today I want to write about how we, as individuals, receive feedback.

My focus is on how we recognise it, rather than how we respond to it.  (The response element might feature here at a later date.)

I think that there are two types of feedback that we receive personally.  The first is direct.  This is generally stated as an opinion – whether good or bad – and is unmistakably feedback that the person intends to give you.

The second type, unsurprisingly, is indirect.  This type can be harder to spot.  Typically it’s expressed in terms of the impact on the person (the one providing the indirect feedback).  It may be a reaction or a feeling or a question.  This sort of information is easy to miss or disregard, because it’s not obviously labelled as feedback.

To illustrate – last week I prepared a brief paper for discussion with colleagues.  It was intended to be no more than a conversation starter.  During the relevant meeting, one colleague indicated that they didn’t understand what I was trying to convey.  My response was… “Nothing”.  It was intended to start a conversation, not convey any meaning!

The next day another colleagues, who wasn’t able to attend the meeting, came to my office to ask me to explain my paper.  At which point, several pennies dropped – the one that’s pertinent here is that the first colleague was providing me with valuable feedback, which I had missed.

I suspect that many of us miss this kind of feedback, or maybe I’m particularly insensitive to it.  Any thoughts?


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