Coaching Over Feedback


Sometimes feedback can be misused. When it’s used to make the feedback giver feel right, it will not likely sit well with the receiver.

“May I offer you some feedback?” Those words are harmony to some ears and discord to others. Even when you are open to it, their words can trigger—in a nanosecond—a reaction of (imagine a computer voice): DOES NOT COMPUTE!! DOES NOT COMPUTE!! Our brain instantly recognizes the difference with our own self-view, be it subtle or vast. 

We humans have a strong need to be right – said differently, we cannot make ourselves wrong. As a result, we often reject others’ feedback because it either doesn’t align with the view we hold about our self, or we didn’t think of it on our own. 

This internal drive to be “right” is so powerful that we often make up stories about what others tell us in order to affirm our own beliefs. We have every right to script the narratives of our own life, and we are resourceful about it. Sometimes this helps us create our own account of how we wish to remember an experience. Other times, it may connect us to some internal sense or desire itching to break free to the surface. For example, you mention that I should ride my bike more, which makes me think even more about considering buying an e-bike. Many times, it serves to protect our ego when we feel fragile – have you ever written someone off who doesn’t like you saying “s/he’s just jealous” not wanting to fathom there being anything NOT to like?

So, if not feedback from another person, how do we change or know we are on track? The magic lies within—not outside–each one of us. Coaching someone can be more powerful than giving them feedback because it unearths that person’s desires, perspectives, and actions they want to take. For feedback to be worthwhile, it is best given when it is about what that person wants…not what you want for the person (unless you are a parent of a young child). FYI: In case you missed it, check out our earlier blog on feedback here.

Even when we are clear about our own perspectives and desires, they can be evolved through simple (coaching-like) questions such as, “What now?” and “How might you do that?” If you haven’t yet tried coaching, give it a try with a pro. It sure beats the alternative of digging your heels into your worldview, losing potential connection with others, and stagnating in your own growth journey.

This Week’s Challenge: Think of a person with whom you are doing more telling (via feedback) than asking (via curiosity). Assuming you firmly believe that what you have said (or why say anything at all – right?), now tell yourself where you might be wrong. It’s hard to do, right?! To be clear, this is not about being right or made wrong – rather, it’s a radical way to explore alternative perspectives on your own (before you share them). After trying this, I would offer two questions instead of giving you feedback (pun intended): What did you learn from this? And where or with whom could you benefit from being more curious?

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