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?
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.
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.
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her on social media.