Getting started

How to give and receive feedback without destroying souls

- February 9, 2019 2 MIN READ

I have been helping a beautiful friend of mine set up a new business. She is a soloist, it’s her first business, she is 42 and incredibly brave. But some of the well-meaning feedback she received almost crushed her. Here are some tips on how to give feedback!

I so admire and respect people with the courage to go it alone in business. Those of us who have been there know how hard it can be, how wonderful it can be, and how much of a roller coaster ride it is every step of the way.

In the early stages of setting up we are all finding our way. We take everyone’s feedback on board, keen to soak up direction and wisdom. It’s an exciting time, but also a vulnerable one where we can easily get derailed by feedback. It is usually well-intentioned, but often poorly delivered.

Ask, and you shall receive

My friend ran some very smart market research in the form of a pilot programme, where she trialled an educational session with 20 people who expressed interest in her offering.

Most of the feedback was helpful and wonderfully affirming of her business idea. But some was not. Some questioned her integrity, her ethics and her entire business model in a really harsh way. I know this lady to have the most incredible ethics, integrity and professionalism – at every level.

This feedback really upset her, made her question everything and caused a lot of damage. Why? Because it wasn’t delivered constructively, even though I’m sure the people giving it thought it was.

Assess where’s it coming from?

Now I know that in business we all have to get a little tougher, but in the early stages, we need the right kind of feedback to help us grow and improve. I’m not saying we need only positive feedback, not at all, we need all kinds of feedback, but we need it to be helpful not soul destroying.

If you’ve ever found yourself reeling from harsh feedback, remember, everyone is giving you feedback based on their own life experiences and limiting beliefs. If you ask someone who has worked in the Council all of their life for feedback to a business idea, their response may be filtered around security, financial stability, even retirement – not thoughts that exist in the realistic mind of a solo entrepreneur (or any business owner).

I’ve had a lot of feedback over the years, most of it awesome and helpful. Some of it soul destroying. But I’ve learned to take a good long hard look at the person giving me the feedback. I start there. If they are giving me advice on my business, how successful are they? If they are giving me advice on relationships, how good is their relationship?

I appreciate that they can share lessons they have learnt the hard way, but when it’s the “you need to do this” talk, I filter these comments very thoroughly and I suggest you do the same.

Harsh but fair?

I often hear people saying that you have to give honest feedback. Absolutely you do. But great feedback is where you are also able to realise your own bias, your own limiting beliefs kicking in and most importantly, your feedback language and tone. Your words can have far more impact and consequences than you realise.

Yes, we all need to embrace constructive criticism, but we need to ensure we protect ourselves from those who don’t know how to give this in a positive way, and make sure we give feedback the credit (or lack of credit) it deserves.

It is very easy to damage someone with a few words, please be extremely considered with your feedback.