This isn’t the kind of non-fic that would normally appear on my radar, but I read it for a book club discussion at work (yes, we have those). Written by authors from the Harvard Negotiation Project, this book is about the art (and science) of giving and receiving feedback. The hook is an instant draw-in, as the authors frame the concept of feedback as universal. Every interaction in most relationships, they argue, is a form of feedback. At times, people conflate coaching or evaluation as feedback too, and there’s ways to sift through those.
This is a very practical book. It reads like a manual for situations where we might struggle to receive feedback. Like layers of an onion (with the tears too), it peels back the triggers and causes for it. It provides guardrails for recognising our own behaviours in response to feedback and course-corrections that help absorb the nuggets of truth. What is particularly wonderful though, is that it recognises that not all feedback is helpful, or to be taken at face value. Not all feedback givers are helpful either, sometimes lacking as much in tact as content. Chapters discuss these situations and how to deal with them.
Some points that I took away:
- Triggers – this is key to understanding why we react the way we do and how we can separate the feedback from the giver, the situation, or our state of mind. This is particularly useful for those of us who pride ourselves on our high EQ.
- Circumstances – so much of how we receive feedback is a result of our upbringing, our circumstances, and how we’re wired.
- Disagreements – Even if you understand and clarify the feedback you’re given, you still may disagree with the fundamental point and that’s ok. Also what to do about it.
- Gut – Spotting multiple tracks in feedback (coaching/evaluation) is hard because your initial reaction tends to take over. Also, what to do about that voice inside head.’
- Giving feedback – If receiving feedback is hard, there is quite a bit the giver can do to be heard. Choose your words carefully.
Ultimately, this is one of those books that I can see myself returning to when I need to. In my current workplace, there is a big culture of giving and receiving frequent feedback. No doubt, someone is bound to point a blind spot to me and I can imagine the techniques I have found in this read will prove useful. I am looking forward to our book club discussion now to see what insights others share!