Organizing the Feedback

by Krishna on March 11, 2007

Some time back, I had written about getting feedback from people for self-improvement. When you follow this, you will find a lot of suggestions given by people and suddenly you are faced with some new problems like

  • Advice given by different people is contradictory. For example, one person says that you are very aggressive in meetings; another says you are too meek.
  • Acting upon the advice may mean making other compromises. For example, your boss asks you to be less tolerant of some mistakes, but that could lead to your unpopularity.
  • The advice seems to be at odds with your perception. For example, someone may question your spoken communication, but you have never faced any situation.
  • Some feedback may be entirely negative without any suggestions for improvement. For example, you are told that your user interface design skills are really bad without providing any specifics.
  • You already know the advice, but it is not on the list of your priorities. For example, you already know you are weak in public speaking, but right now, you just want to focus on improving your writing skills.

So, you see — getting feedback is just the first hurdle; acting on it poses other challenges. So what can one do?

The first step is to evaluate the feedback with respect to one’s goals. If working on the feedback does not further one’s goals, then it is not necessary to work on it. For example, for a student who has poor scores in biology in secondary school, but wants to be a computer programmer, it may not be necessary to work harder on biology. However, if the biology grades affect the overall grade that influences entrance into a science/engineering college, then not working on biology negatively affects the goals and hence the situation should be rectified.

Another thing one needs to do is to organize the feedback items on the basis of authority. A question to ask here is: which person has the better background to provide the feedback? For example, I come from India. If another India-born person says that my spoken English is good, but an American-born person says that he finds it difficult to understand me, the latter is probably correct.

This also applies to us versus others. There are some things that we cannot easily measure for ourselves and must rely on others. For example, our singing and acting talents are dependent on the opinions of others, whereas athletic or sports skills can be measured on the basis of performance and scorecards.

An advice provided without suggestions or recommendations is useless, most of the time. The real problem in this situation is you have a good reason to suspect the motives of the adviser. And if that is the case, fixing the issue doesn’t solve anything because the person will have some other gripe. Having said that, it is still worthwhile to review the advice with respect to other people and situations.

Finally, look at your list and prioritize. Do it asking the questions: What are your end goals? What do you want to be? How do you want others to see you?

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