When I first became an editor at The Jerusalem Post back in the early 2000s, readers’ letters would arrive by the dozen. Real letters. Not emails.
These letters were gold. They were the best form of feedback a journalist or editor could ask for.
Some of the letters were nasty, nitpicky, mean-spirited, and horrible. (Most of the time, people write to complain not to commend.) But they were nonetheless valuable.
I learned from another editor that the best way to learn from these letters was to hang them up in your cubicle. Especially the awful ones. To be reminded of the message the person writing hoped to convey. The understanding is that if someone took the time to write the letter, there must be a message that can be learned.
Indeed, these letters gave insight of the readership and, after wading through the meanness, ways to improve.
Since then, I’ve requested critical feedback at every job stop – freelance or salaried.
For me, feedback is a key to communication.
Fast forward to 2020, and I recently gave a Zoom talk on social innovation stories. After requesting feedback, like I do after every talk, the messages I got were riveting. It was fascinating to hear through their eyes how my message came across, which points were memorable, and where I could improve.
This latest feedback led me to write this blog, 3 Reasons Feedback Makes You a Better Communicator:
Feedback is a great learning tool
Some see feedback as criticism. It may be. But it is still a great learning tool.
Feedback, constructive criticism, constructive feedback – call it what you like – it can help you learn what you need to do to improve your performance. It also teaches you how you come across to others.
I worked at a job once, whereby the “leader” refused to share feedback. Said manager didn’t want the staff to learn how to be better at anything or know what was going on in order to keep everyone in the same place. Despite repeated requests for feedback, there was no communication amongst the team.
Fortunately, I’ve worked with other amazing leaders. These managers shared opinions and views and ideas with the team so that everyone could move forward. When teams can share their experience of working with one another, there is a mutual understanding of why you do something and how you do it. This is an invaluable lesson.
Feedback can encourage you to do better
Feedback, when accepted, can motivate you to do better.
Not everyone is open to hearing how they performed a task. But if you are open to hearing how you did something, it can validate you and provide tips on how to be better.
When you actively listen to the person giving feedback, you’re also recognizing their role. People like to know they are being seen and heard, after all.
So, don’t forget to thank the person who gave you the feedback! Regardless of whether the feedback is to your liking or not, no one has to give feedback. Those who do, should be thanked.
Feedback verifies communication
We can all ask for feedback. We won’t always get it.
When we do, it verifies that communication has taken place.
It can be verbal, written or non-verbal (a nod, a smile) communication.
When feedback is given properly, it can ensure messages were understood correctly and communication can continue.
On the flip side, I suppose that no response is feedback, too. The person who does not respond is sending a clear message that s/he is not interested in communication with the other party.
If you have another reason for the need for feedback, please add your thoughts.