There is no arguing that most people want to improve and aspire to become a better version of themselves. However, to improve something, it is critical to know the baseline. Where you stand? How well you know yourself? How do you know if you are right about yourself? Do others see you in same light?
Thus, begins a journey of self-awareness. It has two very different and independent aspects to it –
- Internal self-knowledge
– Having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivations and emotions.
- External Self-awareness
– This allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them while. While it is relatively easier to get your head around the former and many people are good at it, it is the latter one, where most surprises are hidden! For external self-awareness, we are dependent on other people; on their opinion. Thus, there exists the minefield. The thought of other people pointing out our weaknesses and shortcomings usually makes most of us nervous and uncomfortable. It interferes with our wish to be liked and praised by others.
The fact that we need this feedback to grow. We have always known it. It was more than 500 years ago, poet philosopher Kabir Das had written –
“Nindak niyare rakhiye aangan kuti chhawaye; Bin sabun pani bina nirmal karat subhaye.”
(Keep your critic close to you; give him shelter in your courtyard. He cleanses your character, without even soap and water). Despite knowing it, while we bask in the glory of our praise, criticism is hard to digest. And it gets further compounded by who the giver is!
Given the enormity of the issue, the question is how some people are still good at receiving feedback/criticism and then use it to their benefit? Dr. Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist, researcher, and New York Times best-selling author, calls such people as “self-awareness unicorns”.
These unicorns find only 4-5 people (loving critics) with whom they enjoy mutual trust and have sufficient exposure to the behaviour they want feedback on. This list of loving critics would change depending on the behaviour on which the feedback is sought. The key is to know specifically on which aspect of your personality you are working on and restrict seeking feedback to that. A general question like,
“do you have any feedback for me?”
would never takes us anywhere.
The Mum Effect
It is evident that the biggest obstacle in receiving useful feedback is our own reluctance. Once we understand the importance of feedback and overcome this obstacle, the next big obstacle is the MUM effect. It refers to the robust research finding that people are more hesitant to share bad news relative to good news. It is critical to be mindful of this phenomenon and dig deeper with an open mind and encouraging stance when eliciting feedback.
In the nutshell, you are the captain of your own feedback ship. It is important that you:
- Pick one area (preferably) which want to work upon at one time
- List relevant people whom you want to seek feedback from
- Have agreement / expectation set with these critics
- Define the baseline
- Have a time-bound action plan for improvement
- Schedule regular feedback sessions to gauge progress
More and more organisations are signing up for this. It simply means combination of feedback from people above you, on your sides (peers) and people below you on organisational hierarchy. While it is a great tool, the key here is “trust”. Person undergoing this feedback should have complete trust that the HR/ External Partner is equally invested in his/her growth. It is critical that such feedback should not be part of appraisals but only to be used to define baseline behaviour that throws up specific areas to work on. In right hands, 360* can be a great gift to the individual.
The Bottom line
While criticism is difficult to digest, but if you tame this beast, it has potential to change your life for better, in a way that no other tool can!