Free Education

By Olumide Akintokun

I was at a meeting recently and a colleague had some feedback for one of his supervisors. Almost as soon as he finished giving his feedback, even before the convener of the meeting had had the chance to talk, the subject of the feedback started to ‘attack’ every point made by the bearer of the feedback. Everything he said was in defence of himself. Not once did he acknowledge the feedback. Not once did he take responsibility for his perceived brashness.

It is a common phenomenon for people to feel attacked when the feedback they expect to receive does not come as praise singing. Feedback, especially when not flattering, is almost never received in good faith. There is always the impression that the feedback is a personality attack. True, there are people who malign others under the guise of giving feedback. But not all feedback is evil. Some are just what they are – feedback.

Dealing with feedback positively is an important life skill. It does not come naturally to some people. It needs to be learnt and developed. At many points in your life, you will be given feedback that will sometimes feel like criticism, even in a professional setting. Truth be told, sometimes it will be difficult to accept – especially when it is the truth. Whatever happens after the feedback has been delivered depends on your reaction. You can either use criticism in a positive way to improve, or in a negative way that can lower your self-esteem and cause stress, anger or even aggression towards the source of the feedback.

There are two types of feedback – constructive and destructive. Both forms usually challenge your ideas, character, performance, or ability but learning to recognise the difference between the two can help you deal with any feedback you may receive. Destructive feedback is often just thoughtlessness, but it can also be deliberately malicious and hurtful. Constructive feedback, on the other hand, is designed not only to point out your mistakes, but also show you where and how improvements can be made. Constructive feedback should be viewed as a useful assessment that can help you improve yourself rather than put you down.

When challenged by another person, it is common to react in a negative manner. But if you keep an open mind, constructive feedback is usually easier to accept, even if it still hurts a little. However, you will not be able to control how people prefer to serve their feedback to you so always try to remember that you can use feedback to your advantage. To deal with feedback positively will require you to first be sincere with yourself in the acceptance of it; and be willing to use it to improve on the person you were.

An American storyteller, writer, sales and business development expert, Ann Marie Houghtailing said in one of her quotes:

Feedback is a free education to excellence. Seek it with sincerity and receive it with grace.

Ann Marie Houghtailing

This post was originally shared on https://olutokun.substack.com/p/free-education

Olumide Akintokun is an accidental writer and my childhood best friend.

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