Can I give you some feedback?
It’s not the phrase I like to hear. Ever. It gives me the heebeegeebeez. It takes me back to when I was eight years old and I took karate lessons – I feel like strapping on my white belt (don’t judge), getting into a crane stance like the Karate Kid, and make ridiculous Bruce Lee sounds.
I feel like this because the next few words that come out of the other person’s mouth are lies. I’ll know because their lips will be moving. Whatever the other person is about to say cannot be true. They’ve spun a web of false assumptions that they’re now ready to trap me in. These lying liars are the worst and really do make me want to carry my white belt around with me.
There’s a problem, though. The feedback is true – to them at least. Perception is reality. That’s probably my second least favorite phrase to hear. But what someone else experiences, whether true or not, is their reality. A reality that we’re a part of. One that we need to be more aware of.
What I keep reminding myself is that feedback is a gift.
It’s an opportunity to understand how someone else sees you. How your character is portrayed in the script of their life. You may be the protagonist in your world but the antagonist in theirs. And if they never tell you otherwise, you may never realize it or have the opportunity to change the story.
People may not come right out and say directly Can I give you some feedback? but they’re sure to give you feedback in other ways. They’ll make a passing comment. They may give you a look, or if you’re my wife, THE look. Or my personal favorite – the good ol’ stink eye.
We can’t make everyone happy. Bill Cosby taught us that when he said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” That’s the other side of the coin.
But there is a nugget of truth, however small, buried within feedback. Our job is to listen honestly, withholding judgment, and decide if it’s valid or not. Only then should we set the record straight.
And we must remember that the only way feedback is a gift is if we receive it.