The Power in Receiving Feedback

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Welcome to Format Free Friday, when I break the format of answering your questions and I dispense that which we rarely welcome in life: Unsolicited Advice.

Let me ask you something: Does the mere thought of getting feedback cause your heart to beat a little faster? If it does, you’re not alone. The truth is that we literally live in a culture of feedback-avoidant people. You know what the result is? We are less likely to try new activities (for fear of not being good), we are less outspoken in class settings (for fear of having the wrong answers), and as a result, we handicap our ability to learn.

Learning involves making mistakes. It requires that we be vulnerable. And in a society of perfectionists where we’re all trying to outdo each other, allowing ourselves to look like beginners is very challenging.

As you may know, I am a dancer. You cannot be a dancer and not take dance classes, because the learning and conditioning in dance is never ending. Dancers do not reach a point in their training when they no longer have things to learn.

With that said, it is not unusual to be in a dance class for years and never receive a correction from the teacher. This is not a good sign. This does not mean that the student is such an accomplished dancer that she doesn’t warrant corrections. It means the teacher has given up on that student.

A dance teacher gives up on a student for many reasons, but most of them have to do with the student being unable, or unwilling, to receive and implement corrections. There are too many students in a class to spend time on a student who isn’t open to getting feedback.

Your world is like a dance class, and every day you are communicating to the people in your life your willingness to receive feedback and corrections. You tell them with your body language, with your level of participation in conversations, and with your honesty about your struggles. If you keep discussions on a superficial level, there’s no opening for feedback. If you look so overwhelmed by life that your friends and family are afraid to be the straw that breaks your back, you won’t get feedback.

Don’t be the dancer that the teacher has given up on. Don’t be a know it all. When someone offers you a correction, don’t respond by saying, “I know,” or by offering an excuse. If you knew, you should have been doing it right all along.