Feedback is the lifeblood of adaptation. You don’t know how well you are doing without feedback. You also don’t know if you are really blowing it without feedback. Last week, the article on Three Types of Coaching Feedback was about the value of feedback to coaches. The value of feedback goes beyond the items in that article. A broader life value to feedback is also worth recognizing.
Generally, we grow up thinking about feedback as being either positive or negative. Positive feedback reinforces; we like positive reinforcement and want to do the same things again. Negative feedback tries to extinguish activities. Who likes negative feedback? What happens is that we start to avoid feedback because we might hear some really negative stuff. Our mental category for negative feedback makes us want to run away from it all.
Another alternative is to think of feedback as either positive or constructive. I was having a conversation last week with another coach about feedback. She liked those categories because they either lead us to keep on going or to change our activities to a more positive vein. In my mind, constructive is just another word for negative.
The most helpful classification of feedback is to call it either off-course or on-course. Here’s two reasons why:
- On-course or off-course distinctions remove the positive and negative connotations entirely. It objectifies the feedback rather than making it emotional laden.
- On-course and off-course distinctions both set a path for your future. Think of it this way. You are driving in a strange city and think you are lost. So you pull over and ask pedestrian for directions. You don’t care if he says you need to go straight for two blocks or whether he says to take the next right and go two blocks. You are getting directions in either case.
When you start to think about all feedback as a way to chart your course, then the feedback becomes a welcome part of your life. The challenge to you is simple: the next time someone offers you feedback, frame it as directions rather than positive or negative. I guarantee that you will pay more attention.