I’m never giving anyone feedback, ever again. Really. Who among us but the most stoic (which doesn’t include me) doesn’t flinch when we hear, “Can I give you a little feedback?”
From now on, I’m offering input. I’ll make an observation, share my perspective, even offer a suggestion if you ask for it. Just don’t ask me for feedback.
I know this sounds like semantics. Yet the distinction isn’t so subtle when you look at how the brain responds to that word, feedback. Giving feedback elevates our status. Being the recipient of feedback diminishes our status. Brain research suggests that status is far more important to our brains than we imagined, and that how people affect our status triggers whether we see them as friend or foe.
The brain’s basic organizing principle is, “Does this new piece of data coming my way represent a threat or a reward?” Doesn’t matter if it’s a tiger, a box of candy or an insult, it’s how our brain filters new data in that nanosecond before our prefrontal cortex — our ‘thinking brain’— gets engaged.
The moment we hear ‘feedback,’ our brain goes on high alert: “Danger, danger, threat to status, dead ahead!!” Our limbic system gets all ginned up, the internal noise level goes up, and it’s harder to hear and process the ‘feedback’ in a positive way.
If this still sounds like semantics, try tracking what people say after they ask the question. I met someone new the other day, and twice in our conversation she asked if she could give me some feedback. Each time, it was an observation that expressed how her experience combined with my words to give her an impression of me. That’s not feedback. That’s…an observation. In her case, she framed it as thoughtful words of encouragement on something I could get better at. Excellent input. A welcome perspective. I didn’t even flinch.
If you would like to share an observation, offer input, or make your perspective heard on this post, please email me. If you still feel you want to give me some feedback…well, same to you, pal!
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