Have you noticed that sometimes people feel a need to share unsolicited feedback with you?
Don’t you hate that?
Here are just a few of the “constructive criticisms” people have felt a need to share on my career journey, some even recently:
- Change your voice.
- Lose some weight.
- Stop wearing pink.
- No one will take you seriously if you…
- Grow your hair.
- Shorten your hair.
- Change your lipstick.
- Don’t wear stilettos.
- Don’t wear sneakers.
Sometimes that feedback comes in the form of not-so-subtle questions like:
- Why won’t you ever follow the rules?
- Are you always like this?
- Do you think the rules don’t apply to you?
- Why won’t you just do what is expected?
Maybe some of you have heard the same things, all designed to “help,” but more often end up hurting. But, I’ll tell you a secret…
Everyone wants your attention, not everyone deserves it.
I’ve ignored that unsolicited feedback above because, ultimately, I don’t care. And you don’t have to care either. You don’t have to pay attention to everyone’s feedback: in fact, you should choose the people in your life that are qualified to give it and those who you have given permission to speak into your life.
Your goals and decisions, standards and systems, and strategy and vision might not be what others would do. But that’s ok. They don’t have to own them, but you do. So you need to determine them for yourself. Only you know what is best for you—not everyone will be on board, and that’s OK.
Do the unexpected.
Challenge the rules.
Go against the flow.
Find your own path.
Here are a few tips to handle unsolicited feedback—and how to embrace helpful feedback.
Know how to respond — When someone comes up to me after a presentation at a conference, in a ballroom, or at a board table, and asks if they can give me some feedback, I look them in the eye, smile, and say “No, not today.” Often times they’ll be shocked—sometimes they’ve already started speaking! I simply smile, and repeat that “no” if necessary. Be firm in your response.
Know who to ask — My personal philosophy is to only ask people who are qualified to give me feedback. If I want to know how I sound on stage, I ask the sound engineer. If I want to know how I performed as a keynote speaker, I ask an accomplished professional speaker. If I want to know how I am to work with, I seek input from my clients. Seek feedback from people who are qualified to give it.
Know what you want feedback about — Asking for general feedback can be awkward, and can be challenging for the person you ask for a variety of reasons. Set the perimeters of what you’re looking for so they don’t have to guess, or, worse yet, fall back on generalizations that aren’t helpful. I have asked professional speakers “Can you review my transition statements to see if the ideas flow logically together?” or “Can you watch my speech to see if I can increase my interaction with the audience?” Be specific in what feedback you’re seeking.
Know when you want the feedback — If you are inviting someone to provide feedback, don’t surprise them. If you want feedback before a presentation or client meeting, make sure you ask well enough in advance to give the person you’re asking the right amount of time, and for you to absorb that feedback yourself. Similarly, don’t spring the request on someone immediately after you’ve delivered a presentation. Respect the time of the person you’re asking, AND account for your own time to synthesize the feedback you receive.
Feedback delivered well is a powerful tool for development. Feedback delivered poorly is a dangerous disconnector.
Feedback is best when it comes from a coach, an accountability partner relationship with a colleague or your leader, or someone you trust who has your best intentions at heart.
Imagine what you could do if you focused on what YOU wanted and what YOU needed instead of listening to everyone else?
What is the craziest feedback you ever received? Love to hear it.