Nonconstructive Feedback is A Thing – How to Deal with It

Have you ever been told “You talk too loud” or “You smile too much”? Most likely at one point in your life – you have. Society has ways of putting up rules and expectations you were told to adhere to. Especially in group settings such as school or in sports. People like to keep you in line with the norm because if we all behaved the same, if we all were predictable, it would be easier. Just think, is a group of people who all behave the same way easier to manage or a large number of individuals who all have different needs and behaviors? A strive for standardization is logical. Yet, I find, the most beautiful thing about humans is our way that we can all be so different and at the same time, all know the same feelings. Being told that you are not adhering to the norm like “You are so quiet” or “Why are you so shy?” is hurtful to everyone. You’d think people would have learned through experience, not to do it. And yet instead, because its done to you, you do to others. Maybe out of hurt but also maybe, because you think its right.
Either way – you can probably guess where I am going with this. I don’t think it is. I would ask you rather to focus on accepting the other person and asking yourself, why do these things bother you about them specifically. In everything we do, its more about us than it is the other person.
But – what if it is a part of a performance review? These situations are meant for feedback. They are meant to evaluate how you are doing, and if conducted correctly, to help you grow. By providing feedback, you can adjust and do a better job. Sometimes though, the feedback can do the opposite and stop your growth. One of those things is know as nonconstructive feedback, which are comments like I mentioned above. “You smile too much” – is for example one women get a lot. Or “You are too direct”. Although these things might come from a good place, they do more harm than good. For one, feedback at work should always be about professionalism. It should be about your work as such, the quality of it. There are many many books about how feedback should be given and all say they should focus on the matter and not on the person. Because, a lot of things are hard to change because they are a part of who we are. And they can be a good strength. For example, you won’t be told you smile too much if you work in customer service. And if you work in a tough, fast paced environment, directness is often also appreciated, like in Law. Performance discussions should always be about the performance and not about what you don’t like about the person.
It is a normal tendency to feel like it should be a part of the feedback, but it is not. Just think, if its not about the work, then don’t accept it. Your personality is not up for discussion and not up for criticism. If they want your work, they should accept the entire package. Don’t change how much you smile, don’t force yourself to become an extrovert, who you are is not up for negotiation. It is not a thing that needs to be amended or provided feedback on. Exactly who you are is what got you to where you are and if you are not growing or not happy – then you change the environment and not yourself. Every plant grows, but it needs the right climate and circumstances (no palm tree can grow in Alaska – if you get my drift). Stand firm, stand tall, and only take that kind of feedback from people who you love, at a time when you feel you can accept it.
Other than that, shrug it off. Or better yet, smile it off. And turn the attention back to your work.

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