Why you need to stop dodging feedback

How do you feel about feedback? Relaxed? Or do you get a knot in the pit of your stomach at the mention of it? Is it something you give and receive regularly or reserved for a once-a-year-let’s-get-this-over-with-exercise?

I realised recently that I have been avoiding feedback. Actually I’ve known it for a while but such was the level of avoidance that every time I thought about it I switched my mind to something else! What if there was something I wasn’t doing right? What if people weren’t really happy with my work and were just humouring me?

What's your reputation?

Chris Ducker on stage at Atomicon
Chris Ducker on stage at Atomicon

“Your reputation is what people say when you’re not in the room,” Chris Ducker said when he spoke at Atomicon a few weeks ago.

What are people saying when I’m not in the room? I had a nagging doubt in my mind. The imposter kept tapping away at me, no matter how much I tried to ignore it – and despite the fact all my work comes from referrals, people who know me and recommend me to others.

This week I decided it was time to quieten that inner critic. If there is something I do that people don’t like or that I miss, I can’t improve people’s experience of working with me if I don’t know what the problem is.

I took a deep breath and messaged some clients. I was honest and open about what I was doing and asked what they liked about working with me – and what they didn’t. I also took the opportunity to ask people what they saw as my strengths. My Englishness really fought against that one but if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. I cringed slightly as I sent the messages.

A photo of some headphones. Are you listening to feedback?

What did I hear back? People talked about how much they like my writing and my ability to tell stories. They talked about how I ‘get’ people and their stories. One person called this my ‘biggest superpower’ and said it’s ‘a bit like mind-reading’. They appreciate the time I take to understand who they are talking with. And my ability to write in their voice.

Was there anything I could have done differently or better? Not so far. Take that inner critic! Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to help me with this. If you’re reading this and thinking: “well, there was…” feel free to message me for a chat.

What are your strengths?

It’s hard to self-assess what you’re good at and what you’re not. When I heard about the Strengths Test I admit I was sceptical. But two different people mentioned it in the same week and when that happens, I tend to believe it’s worth taking a look to see what something’s all about. 

I was very surprised when something which I thought was hooey identified things I’d been trying to articulate.  My top five strengths are aspects of my personality I know I have but I didn’t know they were a ‘thing’ – and I definitely didn’t know anyone would class them as strengths.

My top 5 came out as:

Coach – I love seeing people succeed. This one ties in with feedback from someone who said I “love enabling people around you”.

Thinker – the description of this one says: “Who wouldn’t like to have a team member who can simplify even most sophisticated concepts in a way that a 3-year-old would understand?” Yes! That’s me!

Philomath – this is a new word on me. Learning a term for constantly learning feels both meta and awesome!

Deliverer – I set realistic time frames and tell people what to expect when. I really don’t like letting people down.

Catalyst – I’m all for talking things through and researching, but at the end of the day, you need to take action if you’re going to make a change.

What strengths do you hold?

Far from being something to fear, asking for feedback and finding out about my strengths has been illuminating.

I took the High 5 Test. There are other strengths tests which go into more depth but this one has a free version.

Everyone has strengths that help others around them. If you’re dodging feedback because you’re telling yourself negative stories about it (or that pesky inner critic is derailing you with negative talk) then give it a go. Ask yourself: what have I got to lose by doing this? What could I learn? How can I use this feedback to help others? Reframe it from something you are nervous about and make it a positive opportunity to learn.

The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are just as important as the stories we tell others.

Rachel Extance (photo by Jemima Willcox)

Rachel Extance helps business tell their stories so they can reach a wider audience for their work and ideas. A professional journalist, she knows how to write stories people find relevant and engaging. If you would like help to get your message across, need someone who can write articles for you regularly, or you would like actionable ideas for how to tell more people about what you do, get in touch by emailing rachel@extance.co.uk or contact her on social media.

5 thoughts on “Why you need to stop dodging feedback”

  1. Hi Rachel,

    Philomath, what a lovely word! Thanks for sharing its meaning. I think it was very brave of you to seek feedback and want to grow. I’m interested to know if you did receive any constructive criticism, what would be your action plan to learn and grow from it? Do you think one not-so-great comment would overrule all your positive feedback thus far?

    I’m very interested in the High 5 test! Thanks for the link.

    • Hey Kelli, thanks for reading. Yes, I love the word philomath! I’d use it in bios except no-one would know what it meant! No, I don’t think one not-so-great comment would overrule everything and I wouldn’t have asked if I wasn’t mentally prepared to have to deal with criticism. We learn through feedback. It might be difficult to hear it at first, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have been sought in the first place. The High5 test gives you an option to pay for indepth reports, which I did, and they identify character traits to watch out for on each strength. I identify with several of those potentially negative aspects as well. Two for ‘thinker’ were ‘socially awkward’ and ‘overthinking. I’m very aware both of those are true of me. Being more self-aware is a good thing, I think.

  2. Hi Rachel,

    Thank you for sharing this blog. I enjoyed reading your experience with feedback and how you used it to share your learnings with others.

    I am curious to know more about the reason(s) you did not consider them your strengths. Why not?

    Now that you are aware of your strengths, I wonder what you might change (if anything) so that you can leverage them more in your life and work.

    I love learning from you! Look forward to reading your future blogs.

    Maria

  3. Hi Rachel,
    I really enjoyed the way you took on your inner critic in this exploration of feedback. I often talk of the knowing-doing gap and feedback is a classic area that this applies. We know that feedback is good for us and helps us grow, but it can also be scary and we feel vulnerable doing so and often avoid it.

    I like the way you made this so relatable for anyone else feeling a fear of putting themselves out there and showed that it is worth doing.

  4. Great stuff, Rachel.
    I did a similar activity several years back by emailing people close to me to answer some particular questions about what they perceived my strengths to be and I learned a TON. It actually was a big part of how I eventually ended up on my path to my business I have now. Others can often see things in us we can’t see in ourselves.

    I’m curious about how the results of the test matched up with the strengths that were identified by people who actually know you. Were there any outliers? How do you explain them?

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