With over ten years of researching virtual and online communication and feedback, Dr. Ballard has become a feedback pro and enthusiast. Dr. Ballard wants you to know that feedback can be pretty valuable. After all, you give and receive feedback in just about every aspect of your life: in your relationships with friends and family or with colleagues in a work environment, and yes of course, even in your doctoral programs.
Today’s webinar focuses on learning a broad approach to creating a positive feedback experience. The goal is to think of feedback as a way to transform your lives for the better, not as a personal attack or anything bad.
- Reframe the feedback process by changing your mindset
- Unlock the secret to turning feedback into action
- Use feedback to achieve transformational growth and success
Here is this week’s episode in full:
Take time to reflect
To begin, Dr. Ballard asks you to reflect on a time you received constructive feedback. How did you feel? Did you feel deflated or defensive, or motivated and excited? What did you do with the feedback? Did you seek support from family, friends, or colleagues to deal with the feedback? How did it affect your decision-making or personal growth?
By taking time to reflect on how you frame feedback as either a negative or positive experience, you will gain insight into how you adapt to feedback, learn to acknowledge negative emotions, reframe fear and criticism, develop realistic goals, and create support systems.
People differ in how they feel and respond to feedback – and you can even differ in how you feel and respond based on who is giving the feedback and what the feedback is about. For example, you might handle comments from a best friend about your haircut differently than you would your partner. And you will likely experience feedback from a mentor about your dissertation differently than you would a peer.
What exactly is feedback?
So, what is feedback? Feedback is simply information about the past, delivered in the present moment, with the goal of influencing future behavior or performance. Feedback is information that we are constantly giving or receiving, whether we intend to or not. It is also helpful to understand what feedback is not. Feedback is not coaching (coaching is a relationship that uses feedback to help someone grow). Also, feedback is not criticism (criticism provides information about something that could or maybe even should change, but without offering solutions to make those changes).
When you think o feedback as only a source of information, you can remove any emotional attachment to it and instead use it effectively as a mechanism for growth and transformation (which is so important when you are in a doctoral program because there will be a lot of feedback!). This is the reframing process that will help you change your mindset so that the feedback you receive adds value to your life, performance, or progression.
Your relational and communication experiences are the most important factors in how you experience feedback and how comfortable others are in providing you feedback. To experience feedback positively, you must feel safe and comfortable. To feel safe and comfortable within a given relationship, Dr. Ballard suggests enhancing the quality of your communication and the dynamic of the relationship by taking steps to build trust and establish a positive rapport.
Since we all give feedback, let’s start with how we communicate (and create an environment where others can feel safe to communicate also). Emotional intelligence experts remind us that we tend to focus too much on what we say and not enough on how we say it (think natural communication cues like body language, eye contact, tone, etc.). This is made more difficult for online communication because we do not have those natural communication cues to interpret; therefore misunderstandings are more likely to occur.
When thinking about your communication experiences, begin to become aware of how you are engaging, too. Ask yourself:
- What energy do you bring to a conversation?
- What feelings do you naturally evoke when you start speaking with people?
- How does your presence make those around you feel?
- How do others seem to feel when they bring a concern to you?
To reframe how you approach feedback scenarios, you must begin by understanding your personal experiences in relationships, including your relationship with yourself. Do you have a strong sense of self-knowledge or just the same, how well do you know yourself? How well do you know your personal and professional values, beliefs, strengths, and weaknesses? Are you aware of your learning style and its relationship to your values, beliefs, strengths, and weaknesses? Are you aware of how you impact others? Or how your communication style may or may not fit in various scenarios or with other people?
How to become more feedback friendly
- Remain open to improving your self-knowledge
- Be mindful of emotional responses that receiving or eliciting feedback may trigger for you and others involved
- Prepare by anticipating your reactions and the reactions of others by practicing what you will say (role-play can be a great technique)
- Clarify expectations – Do you know what others want from you? Do you know what you want from others?
Adapting to feedback
Change can be hard. Humans are notorious for disliking change– however, change is often necessary for progress, growth, and success. After all, people tend to forget that Darwin’s theory of evolution is not built on the idea that the “strongest survives”; rather, those most adaptable to change have the greatest chance of survival.
We can learn to adapt to feedback by changing the way we look at it and digest it. This alternative perspective should help shift your mindset from receiving that feedback; therefore, you can change your experience with it and how you consume or apply it.
You can change your mindset using these steps:
- Respond versus react – Recognize and identify your emotions. If you are reacting, it might be a fear-based response.
- Solicit Support – Ask for help. Call on a trusted friend to hear you out.
- Reframe the feedback – Rebuild the feedback to your advantage and as a positive. Observe the feedback as a learning tool.
- Use incentives – Reward yourself whenever you succeed in this feedback process.
Feedback to action
Feedback is the driving force that influences learning and continuous improvement. Every day, we experience feedback loops or cycles that occur naturally in our personal and professional relationships. But what you choose to do with that feedback – or that information– can determine your likelihood of success.
How to establish a positive feedback loop once you have received information in the form of feedback:
- Identify goals and outcomes (they must be actionable). What can you achieve in a reasonable amount of time?
- Take steps to achieve the goals. Read, research, practice, ask for help, etc. Do the work that comes from the feedback.
- Self-assess. Decide how you will measure your growth. How will you know when your goals have been met?
- Teach others. If you want to learn how to do something quickly, teach someone else how to do it (this can be very informal – teach a peer or family member).
- Reflect. What additional work needs to be done?
- Solicit Feedback. Ask others if you are meeting the goals you set forth. Soliciting feedback can be difficult. This is usually because we might not think we need to ask, we are afraid to ask, we fear the person we are asking, or we fear the response.
Here are some tips for soliciting feedback:
- Explain the purpose or the goal for requesting feedback
- Ask open-ended questions
- Be gracious
- Keep in mind, no one is perfect
- Remember to respond rather than react (this is a biggie)
- Once you get the feedback, act on it!
- Surprise someone
- Defend, explain or rationalize
- Ask intimidating questions
- Create a situation where someone feels backed into a corner
- Get defensive
Disagree with the feedback? Do this
- Do nothing. Give yourself space to be able to look at the feedback objectively. Do not immediately decide that you are rejecting feedback.
- Avoid looking for holes in the feedback (feedback isn’t perfect; let that go and focus on how you can learn from it).
- Dig deeper. Go beyond your reflexive assumptions; explore the bigger picture.
- Explore the past and future – maybe the feedback given now is setting the stage for feedback you will get later in the program.
- Check your blind spots. Sometimes feedback doesn’t feel true because you can’t “see” it for what it is and what it is revealing about where you need to grow. Here is where your support system can really come in handy.
When we reframe the feedback process and change our mindset, it will allow us to process that feedback more effectively. The continuous loop of feedback can then be used as a tool to help you transform for the better. Learning more about yourself, including your values and beliefs, blind spots, strengths, and weaknesses, will help you grow stronger relationships and better communication skills.
We give and receive feedback in all areas of our lives because nothing is perfect. Be sure to continue to engage in dialogues where you not only receive feedback but understand it, too. There is always room for growth! The sooner you embrace feedback, the sooner you will invite more joy into your doctoral journey.
Stop in for next week’s 2022 Doctoral Student Support Webinar Series; we will feature Dr. Don Dunn presenting on how to build a supportive network.