On feedback

Happy new year, everybody! We’re off to a great start, and I really have a good feeling about this year. Hope you do, too!

Anyhow, this is a brief note on feedback: giving and receiving, as well as why do we do it. It’s based on something that happened to me outside work, but it definitely applies to all facets of life.

So, renovation projects. Raise your hand if you’ve ever engaged in one – large or small, if you’re doing it in an apartment building I guess you know by now that those projects can be both tricky and energy-consuming. The end result is usually amazing, but the road there can be a hassle.

Instead of doing some serious holidaying, I came back to Helsinki to wrap things up with the renovation project in my apartment (trust me, it’ll look amazing!) and earlier this week the moving company brought back my furniture and other stuff from the temporary storage where they had been for like two months or so. The thing is, when you need to bring a lot of stuff all the way to the fourth floor (no elevator, mind you), it kinda makes sense to keep the door downstairs open so the moving people don’t have to open it every time they bring stuff. Well, one of my neighbors didn’t appreciate this because according to him his apartment right above me became like a wind tunnel every time the door was kept open for a long time. Fair enough! But the way this inconvenience was brought to my attention:

Yep, you guessed it. He shoved his fist right into my face. Such a lovely guy! And from now on, since he hasn’t introduced himself to me, I’ve decided to call him THE FISTING MAN.

The way he reacted was super hilarious, but at the same time I felt sad for causing him trouble. Definitely didn’t want to do that! But it made me think about feedback, how we give it, and why do we do it. So basically this is about the style and the message.

Which one to start with, hmm…let’s start with style. If you’re a student, a manager, a lecturer, or a customer, chances are you’ve faced a lot of situations where you have either given or received feedback. How was it? And how did it make you feel?

There are many reasons why people give feedback, but more often than not we do it because we care. Maybe not about the other person, but the context more holistically. Thus, giving feedback is a sign of an emotional bond you have with something, and as such it’s something we should treat with care and respect. But why on earth do so many people give feedback in a destructive way? Why are there so many fisting men – and women – out there?

Maybe it’s because we sometimes forget that we are surrounded by other people, and this, in turn, triggers something ancient in us. The I like I wish concept that was developed in Aalto University aims at solving this issue, and you should definitely check it out. It’s not easy a task to adopt a new behavioral pattern, but in this case it definitely pays off. Because, in essence, feedback operates as a sort of emotional trigger between people: thus, it’s up to us to decide how we want to treat that bond. Do we want to help others become better? Do we want to push other people down so we would feel better about our own accomplishments? Or, and this might be a long shot, but are we sexually turned on by the fact that we can give feedback to others?

To conclude, here are my two cents on the topic: if you’re giving feedback, you should treat it as an opportunity to help the other person grow. Remember, if the receiver doesn’t acknowledge this, it’s not away from you! They, on the other hand, are missing a tremendous learning opportunity. If you feel that someone has fucked up, don’t focus on this; chances are they already know it, and repeating it does no good to anyone. Instead, try to think of ways for improving the situation: after all, no one likes to be in a shitty situation, so the best thing you can do is to try to make the situation less shitty.

As you can see, this is a topic I really feel passionate about, which is why I think I’ll devote at least a couple more posts on feedback. So consider this as the beginning, and if this post resonated with your thinking or experiences, please let me know in the comment field below! 🙂



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