What to do when feedback is wrong

Lisa McLeod PHOTO CREDIT: Contributed

American author Ken Blanchard says, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

Giving and getting feedback helps individuals and teams engage and improve. With the shift to virtual work, it’s easier than ever for everyone to weigh-in or to forward things to other teams for another round of opinions.

With everyone chiming in, feedback has gone from the “breakfast of champions” to feeling more like a buffet, a big gathering of things that look OK from afar, but leave you feeling nauseous if you try them all.

In business, we are schooled about the importance of getting feedback and taking it well. But, what about when the feedback is wrong?

Check out the four tips below for dealing with feedback that’s a little (or a lot) off base:

Limit your inputs

Your boss has a few ideas to “make that pitch more compelling.” So does your peer. So does his or her peer. So does the professional development webinar you went to. Geez, it’s surprising the family dog hasn’t chimed in with a few “insights to share.” It adds up to feedback fatigue, and when we become overwhelmed with inputs, it hinders our ability to recognize good feedback and act on it.

Put some guardrails on what you’d like to get feedback on and whose insights you value most. Taking a pragmatic and organized approach will get you better insights faster. It also will serve as a gatekeeper to consistently wrong (meaning, truly incorrect) feedback.

Be aware of emotional triggers

In Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen’s book, “Thanks For the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well,” they share three triggers that can keep us from receiving feedback well:

Truth triggers: When we believe the feedback is somehow off, unhelpful or simply untrue.

Relationship triggers: When we become tripped up by the person giving the feedback, not the feedback itself. Like when someone with no knowledge on the subject tries to give feedback, or when someone who usually treats you well gives you a piece of particularly harsh feedback.

Identity triggers: When the feedback is about something you pride yourself on. For example, if a copywriter is told to be more creative or a CEO is told to think more strategically, it becomes almost impossible to think rationally.

If your emotions are becoming heightened when presented with feedback, ask yourself: Is that trigger preventing me from seeing a potential truth?

Ask Questions

When we disagree with something, we tend to double-down on defense mode. Our voices get louder, our ability to listen plummets. This only adds tension to what is likely an already uncomfortable conversation.

Asking questions like, “What makes you think that? Can you walk me through your train of thought?” does a few things:

• It makes the person who is giving the feedback feel heard (because they are).

• It helps you uncover potential truth that may have been missed on the surface.

• If the feedback is truly wrong, it will become more obvious to them, or at least more obvious to you, which gives you permission to ignore it, or correct the misperception.

Isolate the feedback

It’s hard not to take feedback personally. It’s amazing (and annoying) how quickly our brains can jump from “the deck feels a little eh” to “so you think I’m not creative and have no good ideas?”

If you receive feedback that is truly off base, safeguard your mental health by isolating the feedback to the project or idea it was intended to address. If you start to assume every “idea for improvement” is a personal jab, it will not be long before everyone at work is your enemy.

For most of us, the challenge is not finding feedback; it’s finding the right feedback and making sure the wrong feedback doesn’t hold us back.

Limit your sources, ask questions and be mindful of when your triggers might cloud the truth.