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Meta-Discussion on Feedback

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I have been thinking about feedback recently.
In the context of this forum, business, and personal life.
The following is my personal take on the subject of feedback.
Not an expert and still learning.

I have learnt quite a few things from Thanks for the Feedback.
Though I think it's more on taking feedback rather than giving feedback.
With a focus on a growth mindset and open-mindedness.

I find giving feedback to be actually quite a complex social endeavour.
Receiving feedback is equally so.

The dynamics of the Feedbacks & Clarifications thread is quite special.
Because I usually give & receive feedback in more private settings, especially the more controversial ones.

Objective Feedback Vs Personal Clarification

As Lucio mentions in the first post of the Feedbacks & Clarifications thread, it is absolutely essential to distinguish between objective feedback and personal clarification.

One is a more objective, rational view of the situation.
The other is a more personal, subjective, emotional take.

Being rational is very important.
And having a detached view of a situation is important for learning & growth.

However, I have learnt as part of assertiveness, addressing your personal, emotional take of the situation is equally important.
If you are not feeling detached, it is okay to say that directly.
As Lucio advised, it's not assertive to hide behind objective feedback to address personal issues.

Feedback & personal clarification cannot be perfectly distinguished.
However, it is important to note which side is your opinion more towards.
It helps with communication.

For personal clarification, I think Lucio's points in his assertiveness article is what I find very useful.
For feedback, I would like to expand the topic to discuss more.

Main Points When Giving Feedback

I think there are 2 main points to think about when giving feedback:

  1. the goal of giving the feedback &
  2. Giving feedback in a way that the person will receive it favourably

I have often thought about point 1 more than point 2.
As such, I have been reflecting on point 2 for some time.

Goal-Oriented Objective of Giving Feedback

In my personal opinion, the crux of giving solid, objective feedback is being a genuine positive judge and coming across as one.

I have realised that having good intentions would not automatically mean people would perceive you to have them when giving feedback.
As leaders, we have the burden to take care of having good intentions and building good perceptions.

Feedback can be multi-purpose, and you may prioritise one objective over the other.
This influences how you communicate your feedback.
Some possible objectives:

  • Influencing Future Behaviour
    You would like to influence someone's behaviour so that it aligns with how you work with that person, or how that person works within a larger environment, like a team. Feedback here can be objective in your view but viewed to be more personal by the other person. After all, you are asking people to change their behaviour, habits or actions. Or maybe even mindset.
  • Influencing Communication Style
    Similar to above as communication style can be part of behaviour. Though sometimes we would like people to communicate with us in a different way so we can understand them better, move things along faster, reduce misunderstandings, or even having more pleasant interactions.
  • Improving Upon Tasks
    Someone completed a task. You think the result can be improved. Or the process.
  • Coaching/Mentoring
    Sometimes someone chooses you to be a coach.

How to Give Feedback in a Way To Maximise Positive Reception?

I think this is challenging because giving feedback is really taking on a judge role.
As Lucio has mentioned, it takes a certain amount of personal power to speak up and give your own opinion.
Especially if it concerns power dynamics.

For people to accept your feedback, they need to see the feedback, your intentions and you as a person as overall value-adding.
You can also give feedback to strangers though I find it more challenging.

Spin the Feedback in a Power-Protecting Format

Another element that Lucio mentions is being power-protecting.
By the nature of taking a judge role when giving feedback, you could be taking power away from others.

To protect power and also because I could be wrong, I include a preamble:

I may be very wrong on this situation.
Though I wanted to give my take because it could potentially add value.
Feel free to disagree.

It's possible that your feedback is very value-adding but you take away power from the other person.
Often it's a transient loss of power if the other person handles the feedback well.
Adding power-protecting is a nice icing on the cake.

When Should You Give Your Opinion/Feedback? Or Not to Give?

Now we talked about why and how to give feedback.
Let's talk about when to give and not to give feedback.

When to Give Feedback

  • You are emotionally level-headed.
  • You have a positive relationship with the person.
  • You could add lots of value or prevent loss of value in a situation.
  • You could save a person's face.
  • You have power built on solid foundations.
    Respect and value-adding track record.

When Not to Give Feedback Or Be More Indirect

  • Emotionally Overwhelmed
    You are flustered, angry, slighted.
    Anytime you feel emotionally overwhelmed to the point that it affects your rational thoughts.
  • Less-Than-Ideal Relationship
    The person may not trust you enough to take the feedback positively
  • A more powerful person
    In many cases, I think it's best to do this very tactfully.
    Especially with a boss.
    With narcissistic powerful people, best to avoid entirely.
  • Minor issues
    Address it quickly and say "it's minor" to avoid coming across as nitpicking or finding faults.
  • First Time Meeting A Person
    It could be best to focus on building rapport.

Receiving Feedback

I think this is equally challenging.
Thanks for the Feedback has excellent advice.

It boils down to a few points in my opinion:

  • Develop your growth mindset, anti-fragile ego and ability to detach from situations & people
  • Learn to discern the objective aspects of the feedback from the power dynamics.
    You can learn from feedback even though it makes you lose power, even sometimes from a value-taker.
  • Power dynamics of the feedback, situation, team, relationship, etc

Possible Examples Where Taking Care of the Power Dynamics Of Receiving Feedback is Important

For example, I think Lucio's feedback on Obama's social-climbing is very eye-opening.
Obama could potentially become an even better leader through this feedback.
However, if someone told Obama about this behaviour in public, would it be wise for him to accept this feedback as it is?
Probably he would accept it and reframe it in a high-powered manner like having friction, friendly dispute, etc.

I think Lucio's example over the phone with his ex-boss was an excellent example.
He was beside another manager so he did not say much when at his desk phone.
Then he walked away from his desk and called his boss on mobile.
This takes care of the power dynamics aspect of receiving feedback.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Matthew, this is really golden!

Thank you for sharing this!

A few thoughts related to it, not in order of importance:

  • Sometimes I've held back on feedback based on the reaction or feeling I've got

With members that I felt were more likely to push back, drag it on, or flare-up, I sometimes just passed up. It says that how you react to feedback influences what kind, and how much feedback you'll get -which in an environment like this where feedback is designed to self-develop only, might be a missed opportunity-.

Then there is the case of new members who posted one question only, but the effort it takes to give feedback is significant, and I see it more of a "gift" you do to a few selected ones who've also shown some effort on their parts.

  • Private VS public:

You made a great point. No matter how much people say they don't care about status -and almost everyone says they don't- , most people do. And public feedback si very different than a private one.
There are cons, but also advantages though.

  • Giving feedback in a way that people will accept it: great point, yet "tough love" feedback is also a screening tool

Definitely to be used in office environments, for example, where firing is costly.

Might not be the best approach in the forum though, since the forum isn't necessarily built to pull everyone up.
I don't see TPM as being for everyone. And how people take feedback might also be seen as a (very tough) screening tool.

One or two big flares ups, and I draw my lesson learned: not worth it anymore to spend effort on giving more feedback.

Reactions to feedback might also be considered the "ultimate" stage of assessing character/fit.

Usually, you can see it from the very first message if someone can add real value or not.
But sometimes it takes a few feedback, feedback back and forth, and a few "quarrels" that feedback sometimes give rise to, to better assess characters/behavior.

  • Power-protecting feedback

Still, for whenever you need to power protect, your template was great.

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Matthew WhitewoodStef
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

The golden content here makes me want to share golden content :).

When To Hold Back Feedback?

Sometimes I've held back on feedback based on the reaction or feeling I've got

I'm on the same page.
Why would one share feedback if it's most probably not going to be a win for either party?

I resonate with the gift analogy.
It's like giving a gift.
People like to give gifts when their gifts are received warmly, add genuine value, and improve relationships.

Private Vs Public Feedback - Advantages & Disadvantages

  • Private VS public:

You made a great point. No matter how much people say they don't care about status -and almost everyone says they don't- , most people do. And public feedback si very different than a private one.
There are cons, but also advantages though.

More status for us :).

Here are the thoughts that come to mind.
Some advantages of public feedback:

  • Build a culture where feedback is normal, value-adding, and taken positively
  • Garner multiple perspectives
  • The possibility of opening up new ideas
  • If the community is collaborative & supportive, it will encourage people to learn from feedback
  • The leaders in the environment get closer to the ground and are better able to lead in the long run

Some disadvantages of public feedback:

  • Discussing deeply personal, embarrassing, reputation-destroying topics
  • Confusing topics with complex dynamics that need lots of two-way conversation to clarify
  • Environments with lots of value-taking power players.
    These people may abuse "public feedback" to gain power at the expense of others.
  • When people are going through a tough life period like losing a loved one, getting fired, etc

Tough-Love Feedback As Screening Tool

Giving feedback in a way that people will accept it: great point, yet "tough love" feedback is also a screening tool

I do need more courage to give "tough love" feedback.
I could have screened out many people faster through more direct, no-bullshit statements.

I believe this may warrant a thread on its own.
When to give "tough love" feedback and when to be tactful.

Though I would say I don't find it easy to take "tough love" as well.
If one is serious about self-development and learning, it may take some deep courage to accept one's character flaws and make a plan & take action to get out of one's comfort zone to improve.
Sometimes I need to give "tough love" to myself too when I am not doing the right things.

When Does Feedback-Giving Cross Over to Nitpicking?

I realised some people overdo the feedback giving and give off the vibe of nitpicking.
I think it comes down to the priorities of the team and whether your opinion is mostly value-adding.

Value-Adding Feedback

  • Hits core issues & priorities.
    Genuinely move the needle if feedback is taken into account.
  • Considers the key interests of individual receiving the feedback & the wider team
  • Empowers people in the long run

Nitpicking

  • Addressing non-essential issues.
    Deviates from the key topics & priorities.
  • Does not really add value.
    Expertise is actually quite important when giving feedback.
    Give "less feedback" or "strong feedback" if you are unsure about a topic.
    Awareness of your strengths is important.
  • Clearly delivering feedback as a power move.
    Even if your feedback has some value, your aggressiveness may outstrip the value.
Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on May 6, 2021, 6:38 pm
(...)
  • Giving feedback in a way that people will accept it: great point, yet "tough love" feedback is also a screening tool

I don't see TPM as being for everyone. And how people take feedback might also be seen as a (very tough) screening tool.

After having been around this forum for well over a year now, I've seen a good deal of members come and go. It's hard for me to assess an idea of exactly how many since, in the earlier stages, the forum allowed Guest posting.

But, I still remember some of the more value-adding individuals who came through here and have now been distant for over a month or more. Worse, are the newer members who come to get value and then leave when they have the potential to be long-term value-adding members.

Lately, this has been leaving me to wonder if the "feedback screening tool" might be a little too tough.

Then, I read this:

Quote from BigFunnyBigMoney on June 9, 2021, 3:41 pm

While studying is great and I enjoy learning...I'd be interested to hear some of your acute experiences in what you used and how it benefited you...to understand exactly how the time and energy investment could benefit my life with clear-cut evidence.

It seems that people want to know the (tangible) benefits they would get from learning advanced social skills. And, similarly, they would likely want to know what benefits they would gain from accepting heard-hitting feedback.

I think that when people are receiving hard-hitting feedback, if the benefits of accepting that feedback are unclear, they'll simply avoid the hit (one way is by leaving, another is by creating a long, drawn out conversation about it). To them, avoiding the hit might sound better than taking the hit in the hopes of receiving an future upside they're unsure exists.

So, to fix this, it may be worth it to include a note at the end of each post that's written with feedback. That note can link to a thread that outlines the benefits of learning advanced social skills, power dynamics, social power, and so on (a WIIFT win).

Best of all, this would be a thread in this forum which means it could be updated and expanded on by any and all members who have any new benefits to add. That will keep the list fresh and extensive as it's built with current and newer members progressing on their social power journeys.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano
Quote from Ali Scarlett on June 19, 2021, 4:51 pm

So, to fix this, it may be worth it to include a note at the end of each post that's written with feedback. That note can link to a thread that outlines the benefits of learning advanced social skills, power dynamics, social power, and so on (a WIIFT win).

Best of all, this would be a thread in this forum which means it could be updated and expanded on by any and all members who have any new benefits to add. That will keep the list fresh and extensive as it's built with current and newer members progressing on their social power journeys.

Interesting, Ali.

You mean like a thread where people can share exact situations where knowledge of power dynamics / strategies / advanced social skills helped them in their daily lives?

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Yes, Lucio, exactly.

If I remember correctly, the copy for PU back when it was called Social Power said:

Social Power: "...to get the raise you want, get the partner you dream about, buy the clothes you deserve, and drive the cars you love."

Those are examples of clear benefits.

Even better, would be to have a thread where people can share how their knowledge of power dynamics / strategies / advanced social skills helped them achieve what they want out of life (which could fall into any of the clear benefits above or even include something more that we hadn't yet thought of).

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Got it.

It's very possible indeed that the "practical" aspect of it might need to be stressed more.
And I just re-added that line to the sales copy now, so thanks, Ali!

In terms of a thread on how power dynamics made a difference in life, it never crossed my mind.
I guess in part it's because, in my mind, power dynamics is eminently practical and foundational to being "effective" in life, which obviously includes "getting what you want".

Might not be so obvious to everyone though, especially when several articles also cover the more theoretical / academic aspects of whichever topic it is that they cover.

So, yeah, let's open that thread now.
At worst, it will die there. At best, it can become a repository of cool practical examples in which power dynamics / advanced social skills make a difference :).

Edit:

Here it is.
With an intro which I think is important to avoid considering the "concrete examples" as the ultimate be-all of personal empowerment.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Awesome, I took a look at that thread and I like where it's going.

Some additional thoughts on how forum feedback can be better received:

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on April 29, 2021, 3:32 am
Quote from Matthew Whitewood on April 28, 2021, 8:53 am

(...)

Thank you, Matthew!

Yes, maybe the separation user/admin could be quite helpful.

It would come at the cost of time though, as I usually always have a page open taking notes of a review I'm making, preparing an article, or working on something, and then I should switch if I want to reply or quickly write a forum entry.

BUT, something to keep in mind for sure.

Have you ever thought of giving yourself a "title tag" for different posts?

For example, how hard do you think it would be for you to do (or hire someone to code) something like this:

If the user/admin difference is something you could personally select and display for each post, that would be helpful for us to properly interpret how to receive your feedback.

An example of how you might be able to achieve that:

What do you think about this, Lucio? Would this be a difficult project?

And, this is a possible note to add at the end of any feedback to increase the chances that it's better received (pulled directly from one of your own approaches):

Lucio: "Use this reply to think I'm rude, or as one of the most important lessons learned in your life. It's up to you."

That way, you keep your tough screening tool since it's entirely up to them and link to a thread detailing all of the WIIFT incentives for them to take the feedback positively.

In that approach above, you put the "up to you" note at the beginning of your reply and then transitioned into your feedback from there. But, in your shoes, I would put that note at the end so that the positive WIIFT gesture is the lasting impression they receive from your post (as opposed to the "inherently negative" hard-hitting feedback).

*Note: "We know that (most) feedback isn't negative since we do our best to frame all feedback as positive opportunities for growth to get more out of life. But, for anyone new to the forum and/or lacking in an antifragile ego, the feedback is negative. So, I think it's better to leave the post on a positive (using the "on your honor" gambit at the end) instead of on a negative (by leaving the feedback at the end)."

One possible option would be to treat your "up to you" note the same way you treat your forum guidelines note:

And, in a feedback-delivering post, that might look like this:

I think your proposed options are effective, Ali.

What I do have doubts are about the premises of this project which, correct me if I'm wrong, seem to be:

  1. Feedback from my side is more effective if there is clarity between Lucio user and Lucio admin: I agree with that. Then the question becomes: is the time worth the effort, or could it be better spent differently? I think that the majority of the value-adding folks aren't going to be bothered by the user/admin overlap (I might be wrong though)
  2. Feedback is more likely to be accepted if we provide a "context": I agree with that
  3. Feedback is more helpful if we provide a "context": in some cases, yes. In some other cases, people would either not read the context, or not yet be at the level where they can truly understand the bigger mindset shift required
  4. It's good if people can better receive feedback: I agree
  5. It's our duty to help people make the most out of the feedback: I'm not sure about this. At least, not for myself. I wished some former users could have taken the feedback differently, but I don't see it as my personal duty to ensure that
  6. It's good to have more people in the forum: I do miss John. And I wish he'd come back.
    John aside, I'm also not convinced that it's good to have more people in the forum. Neither for the community, nor for the advancement of power dynamics and personal self-development in general.
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