Men in Balance
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Seek out Feedback to Improve Your Life

As men, we sometimes can be defensive when we receive feedback and not take it very well. It seems we try really hard to do our best and when someone else does not appreciate our efforts, that can be painful.

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It is helpful to see feedback as a gift—though it doesn’t feel like it at the time. It means that the other person is giving you something of great value in hopes of making your life better. This is particularly true when it comes to feedback from our wives or partners. If we can understand that their feedback is intended to make us even better (as opposed to tearing us down), perhaps we can hear it without defensiveness or anger. 

That is a good model to use elsewhere also. Whether it is getting feedback from a 360 survey at work or some criticism from a family member, it is always worth remembering that this person (hopefully) has our best interest at heart. My experience is that the best managers are those who can hear feedback and put it into practice without taking it personally. It builds strength in the person receiving the feedback because it serves as a roadmap as to what to work on to make them better. This is a powerful trait to learn for several reasons: first, It gives us valuable insights into how others see us which we can use productively. Secondly, it shows us the other person cares enough about us to risk telling us something unpleasant in order to improve our relationship or us individually.

So why are we defensive or resistant to hearing feedback? Needless to say, none of us likes hearing bad things about ourselves or our behavior. At some level it takes us back to our childhood when we disappointed our parents or a teacher or were embarrassed by some mistake we made.

But we are not children anymore and we should be adult enough to hear and act on honest, constructive feedback. Golfers have to learn this as do other athletes. They realize that the coach intends to make them better and not to degrade them in anyway. Hopefully the coach knows how to give the feedback in a constructive way. Others giving us feedback may not have that skill. So we need to hear their feedback as constructive even when it does not sound that way. Even if it is delivered poorly, we might analyze it to see if there is not something of value in the comment before we disregard it.

If you are in the early stages of your career, this is a powerful lesson to learn. But even if you are retired or in the latter stages of your career, it is still worth learning.

If you are early in your marriage, this can save a lot of hurt feelings and arguments and damage to the relationship. Even in a mature marriage, this is worth keeping in mind.

In my other life as a business consultant, I have seen careers derailed because the individual could not accept and act on constructive feedback– – whether coming from a manager or a customer. That’s a really high price to pay for something that is it a learnable skill.

So keep in mind that feedback, while it can be painful, makes us stronger and a better person. Properly handling feedback is also something you want to model for your children and for people who may report to you. 

Give it a try and see what you think.

As always, there are other helpful resources on the website. Also, as always, we welcome your feedback about this or other messages on the site.