I’ve recently wrote on why sharing problems about a person with a friend is selfish, and now I want to digest this old adage: feedback is a gift. Like gifts, there are three important factors beyond what’s given: the giver, the timing, and the reason.
1. The Giver
From experience, when I’m given a gift by a person close to me, someone who really knows me, the gift is either of two things: 1) something I know I want or need, or 2) something I didn’t know I wanted or needed. Similarly, a feedback from a friend or an officemate I closely work with is valuable. I find that it’s either of these two things as well: 1) something I already know I need to work on, or 2) a blind spot that I need to work on. Either of the two is never worth throwing away or passing to another person. I keep the gift and use it myself.
On the other hand, I’ve received gifts from people who don’t really know me. Of course the gesture is much appreciated, but more often than not the gift itself does not suit me. Say, for example, a parent’s friend who lives abroad sending over some clothes that don’t fit. I end up giving it away. The same with feedback. Sometimes someone would give us feedback who doesn’t have that much basis for what they’d give us. What I tell myself to do is appreciate the gesture but I know I don’t have to pressure myself to wear that shirt because it’s too tight. Once in a while though, like gifts from the same parent’s friend, we can get feedback from people we aren’t close with that actually fits us just right.
2. The Timing
Gifts are timely, and so should be feedback. I love receiving gifts out of the blue but a birthday gift is given on birthdays and a Christmas gift is given on Christmas season. Imagine baking a batch of cookies for Christmas but not being able to give it to a friend until Valentine’s day. That’s probably going to be rotten by then. The more immediate the feedback, the more it is shooting an action rather than a person. The longer the time it takes to bring something up with someone, the more personal it gets to both giver and receiver.
3. The Reason
Whether it’s an out-of-the-blue thing or for a special occasion, we give gifts to people special to us. In the same way, what helps me receive feedback is knowing that behind it is a genuine concern for me. A friend would tell me there’s food between my teeth to save me from embarrassment. Someone who doesn’t care enough to go beyond the awkwardness of telling me does not care enough for me to go beyond that discomfort. In addition, gifts are given with love. Feedback should be truth spoken in love.
Pretty interesting. I hope that as much as this helps me, this helps you lovingly give and openly receive feedback as you would a gift. Like birthday gifts that have been part of our growth in years, may feedback be part of our growth in maturity. 🙂
Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return.
Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt.
So don’t bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you.
But correct the wise, and they will love you.
Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser.
Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.