They Say It’s A Gift


Is there anyone alive who actually likes critical feedback?

Even when we know it’s designed to help us, to change us for the better, it makes us defensive.

My wife and I spent years in couples therapy; it’s one of the reasons we’ve been married 45 years and are closer now than we’ve ever been.

One of the exercises we had to repeat over and over during our therapy was active listening.

That’s listening closely to what the other is saying without beginning to answer, even if only in our minds, before we have restated what we heard and then checked to be certain we heard what was actually said.

It’s the hardest thing to do. Try it, you’ll see.

It forces you to drop your defensiveness as you listen. If you don’t, you won’t actually hear the point being communicated.

And you have to do it each and every time you’re getting critical feedback until it becomes second nature, until you turn to it without even thinking.

It definitely helped our marriage, and once I learned to do it almost automatically it helped me in my career.

It helps to assume positive intent but even that won’t end your defensiveness if you don’t really practice active listening at work and home.

The easiest thing to do when someone who reports to you asks you how they’re doing is to just gloss over any deficiencies and say what you think they want to hear.

It’s hard to be honest when what you say affects people’s feelings and self-image and the more defensive you are when hearing an honest evaluation the less likely you’ll get the truth the next time you ask.

The irony is, the more self-confident you are, the more likely you are to ask for honest critical feedback, actively listen to it and then really consider it, without excuses of defensiveness.

You understand it has the power to actually help you grow and do even better.

It’s a feedback loop we could all use.