When does feedback matter?

Feedback is important, and as I wrote before the only thing to say when we get it is “thank you”.

Yet, we should not fall into the trap of taking action on every piece of feedback we get. Feedback is about the person who is giving it much more than it is about the person who is getting it. If I tell somebody “you should be more productive”, that simply means that the person does not fit into my idea of productivity. If somebody tells me “you should listen more”, that simply means that from where they stand, they are under the impression I am not listening enough.

Consider three things when you get feedback.

Who is giving it? Is that a person you care about, somebody important in your life? Is that your customer, or somebody your work is not intended for? Is that a friend, a family-member, somebody who knows you intimately?

What channel is it coming from? Did they bother picking up the phone, sharing their thoughts face-to-face, at least letting you know who they are? Or is it an anonymous feedback, something you are reading on social media, the starred opinion of a faceless and nameless reader?

What are they saying? Is it something you are hearing for the first time, or something somebody else has already noticed about you in the past? Is it a piece of advice you can act on, or just an opinion, a feeling, a thought? Are they sharing kindly, from the bottom of their heart, or are they being mean, malicious, trying to elicit any kind of reaction?

Once you have considered all this, of course still say “thank you”. And take action only if it makes sense. Otherwise, move on and continue delivering your best work.

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