I have recently devised a model that helps me understand the multitude of gifts that feedback can provide for us.  On one axis is a variable of content – from empty or fluffy to specific and useful.  On the other axis is the “packaging” – from tactful and kind to awkward and insensitive.

Specific and actionable Beautiful perfume bottle filled with our signature scent Granny panties and gumboots
“Fluffy” Designer packages under the trees in Christmas displays Packages ponies leave in the pasture

Tactful and kind

Awkward and insensitive

Our family and friends may often love us so much that they cannot be unbiased enough to deliver the comments that may help us present ourselves more clearly and professionally.  They may be fearful of damaging our relationship, and value protecting that so much that they don’t want to risk upsetting us by making comments that we might see as critical.  Frankly, their concerns are likely valid – many of us are far more sensitive to a message delivered from someone very close to us.  Has anyone ever had “driving lessons” from their spouse????

The first type of criticism is both useful and beautiful.  It comes in a pretty box with a beautiful bow on it and is easily identifiable as a gift.  Caring feedback fuelled by a sincere desire to help someone improve feels more like a gift than criticism, and is easy to appreciate.

The second type of feedback is useful, but not wrapped nicely, like granny panties or gumboots.  It is useful, but requires some polishing up before it will be attractive.  Embarrassing comments might truly assist someone present themselves more effectively in the future.  We may squirm at the time we receive it, but the value is obvious, despite its wrapping or lack thereof.  This kind of message could become the first type if it were delivered privately and at the right time.  No matter how it is delivered, its benefit is obvious, but the recipient will have to concentrate on the result rather than the wrapping.

The third type of feedback is like the beautifully wrapped package under the Christmas trees in office buildings in December.  This feedback is not criticism at all, but instead empty compliments, pretty words with little or no information that can be acted upon, lovely to look at, but generally more ornamental than functional.  There is value in things whose beauty brings us joy, but much more value when it is something we can use and appreciate.  A beautiful perfume bottle is much lovelier when it contains our signature scent than when it is empty.

The last type of feedback I’d like to discuss is like the apples that are left when the pony has left the pasture.  They may be a somewhat offensive, but the little birds that pick the grain out of the horse poop will tell you that they are worth examining.  The plants also appreciate that those apples can create fertile soil in the future if they are cultivated correctly.  This type of feedback appears to be neither obviously helpful nor kind.

It can be much more challenging for us to look at that nugget and pick the kernels out of it.   Byron Katie is a personal growth expert and author of the book “Loving What Is”.  She said, “Until you look forward to criticism, your Work’s not done.”   I have learned that the stronger my negative reaction to someone’s criticism, the more likely there is a nugget of truth in it that would probably be helpful for me to look at if only I can get my ego out of the way.

Each of us has the right to choose what feedback we will incorporate into our own messages in the future.  We pick what resonates with us and is congruent with our authentic selves.  Some of it will make lasting changes in our lives and the way we present ourselves to the world.  Some of it will be a smaller tweak that will make our presentations more impactful.  We will find some of it will simply not ring true for us, and is best left to nourish the soil.

20160319ClarkCriticismIn all cases, feedback makes us aware of the perception and opinion of others and we can be grateful that they have spent their time listening to us and sharing their opinions.

This blog was originally prepared for the shared blog I contribute to.  See it and the contributions from all our contributors at Women Move It Forward shared blog.