In the world of book publishing, the word feedback calls to mind the image of an editor handing a manuscript back to the writer filled to the brim with little red marks. Authors need feedback and editing to polish their work and deliver the best writing they can. It follows that the publishing professionals who are working to produce a book can’t afford to stagnate either. Any career professional must grow, and being able to hear and effectively implement feedback is crucial to that end.
So, you’ve done some work, and now your colleagues, boss, or even those you supervise have feedback for you. Here are three tips to put into practice.
Feel Your Feelings
As my mother likes to say, “If there is a person involved, it’s personal.” It can be incredibly difficult to distance yourself from your performance because your performance is a reflection of who you are and how you think and act. Just as writers may struggle to take notes on work that is personal and precious to them, you might struggle to view your own actions objectively. This is fine. When someone has given you feedback about something you could do better, let yourself feel that first initial sting. Ride the wave for a moment, then take a deep breath and try to set your feelings aside as best you can. It’s important to have a clear head when considering suggestions. Remember: criticism isn’t an insult; it’s an opportunity. Someone is telling you you could improve something.
If you’re serious about improving, you need to master intentional listening. Try to approach the discussion from a genuinely curious perspective. How does this other person see you? How do your interactions feel on their end? Person X being your colleague is not the same thing as you being theirs. Now that you’ve gotten through the initial sting, you can ask follow-up questions and try to learn more about where others are coming from and why they’re giving you this criticism. Maybe your emails can be clearer. Maybe your final drafts have been getting a bit messy lately. By opening up the lines of communication, you will remove unnecessary frustration from both parties. If people trust you to be receptive and attentive, they will find you pleasant to work with, and you will have created synergy for your team with minimal effort.
Even a Wrong Clock
For the most part, I believe that people are trying their best and have good intentions. When someone is offering you feedback, it is either to help you or to help themselves when they are feeling frustrated by some part of their interaction with you. While feedback is inherently personal, it is rarely personal. That said, sometimes it is. Sometimes feedback is too harsh, poorly delivered, or poorly judged. You do not have to implement every scrap of feedback you get, especially under those conditions. However, you still ought to try to remain open in these instances. Sometimes, even through bad intentions, someone will give you a very useful tool, if you can maintain the clarity to find it.