Ask for Feedback, then Listen to It

This is an excerpt from my book “Save Your Drama For Your Mama”.

I’ve made some of my best discoveries about myself because of information supplied by someone else. The people in your life notice things about you that you either ignore or that you are oblivious to. Their input can help you. Useful feedback will reveal any limiting characteristics, speech habits, personal behaviors, nonverbal behaviors, and other blind spots. A “blind spot” is a behavior affecting your life (and often affecting others around you) that you don’t even notice. A blind spot can move you into drama. If not corrected, if can obstruct relationships or even spoil a friendship.

Offering feedback is dangerous, especially to a friend or to a person in authority such as your manager or supervisor. Most team members do not attempt it or do not really deliver deep, useful feedback. But your close colleagues aren’t doing you any favors by turning a blind eye to your limiting characteristics.

Here are some ways to get feedback and use it well.

  • Ask an open-ended question. Most people ask, “Do you have any feedback for me?” and the common response is “no.” Instead ask, “What feedback do you have for me?” You’re more likely to get an answer to this question. It may be positive: “I really like that you start all meetings on time.” When I receive positive feedback, I then ask the person to give me feedback on what I was missing or what I may have done that was ineffective. This is an excellent way to make sure there are no concerns being left unsaid. It is also a quick way to create trust with someone.
  • Say “thank you.” Show appreciation for this gift to your personal growth. Make your thank-you short, but something you can say sincerely, such as “You’ve really given me something to think about. Thanks.” Do not contradict the person, or tell them their feedback is wrong and inaccurate, or justify your position. That’s a sure way to keep them from ever giving you feedback again.
  • Listen and consider their perspective. You might discover behaviors and attitudes you need to correct. Make people aware that you intend to act on their feedback. After a blind spot is identified, then work to change it. When you can display a replacement behavior, you are showing your team that the feedback you receive matters to you.
  • Be accountable. Openly discuss the habit you’ve decided to change, improve or develop. Ask others for their suggestions to assist you. If you receive feedback that calls for an apology, apologize. If the feedback is “you shot down Martha’s idea before you gave her a chance to finish her thought,” you need to apologize to Martha. A leader doesn’t accept every idea that is presented but is never rudely dismissive of any idea.

Be realistic. Commit to making an effort in these areas you’re developing. Make sure you are making a realistic commitment. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Get help, either through training, reading, talking with others, or through support from others.


It can be a challenge to be confronted with your limitations. But I’ve discovered that feedback, warranted or not, is a powerful catalyst for change.

You now have evidence that reveals just how powerful your brain really is. Your next step is to put these ideas into action. Examine your limiting perceptions, examine when you assume negative intentions, and capture yourself when you drop into the Drama Triangle. By consciously attending to the patterns in your life, you can start to shift these patterns to ones that will serve you better.

Charlie Sheppard is President of Sheppard Partners, Inc., a company on the forefront of next-generation behavioral assessment technologies. Sheppard Partners is an organizational development consulting company that focuses its efforts on helping organizations create high performance cultures. He brings experience in organizational development, specializing in the assessment, design, and delivery of development programs with an emphasis on strategic alignment, leadership development, team development, and negotiation skills. By developing innovative technologies and delivering creative solutions, Sheppard Partners is an active partner in the selection process, in the creation of effective teams, and in ongoing organizational development. Charlie coordinates the activities of Sheppard Partners consultants and serves the firm as the lead developer of assessment technologies and courseware.

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