Openness To Influence: The Factors To Consider Before Receiving Feedback

At the very end of my most recent article Listening to Understand: A Social Skills Staple Examined, you were challenged to experiment with four prompts during your conversations to more effectively “listen to understand” and to remain open to influence. Were you able to stand under another’s reality without thinking about your own agenda? Did you remain curious even when you disagreed with another’s point of view?

As you may have discovered, this challenge is easier said than done. The trick is to refuse to quit and keep getting up to bat. To accomplish this, always remind yourself to remain open to influence and continue to experiment with these types of questions and stances. You’ll begin to see slight shifts and moments of insight, granting you the ability to continue to be present and remain under another’s reality. The big first step is addressing resistance from within. And the second step, as you soon will see, is being open to feedback.

The Road from Resistance to Curiosity

Think of an occasion when you’ve felt yourself emotionally closing down. For instance, a situation where your initial reaction was, “I don’t have the time to do this” or “it will cost too much money”. When you believe that the outcome of a situation will adversely affect you, it becomes a trigger point. As I was drafting this very article, it happened to me! In the background was a news story about a business merger that could affect my pocketbook and my time. My mental chatter sounded something like, “NO! That’s going to disrupt my life”, as my hands metaphorically covered my ears to prevent more devastating information from entering my brain. It took a deep breath and an infusion of curiosity to allow myself to hear the rest of the news story.

Such defensiveness is a common spark to full-on resistance. You know the kind— when you feel attacked or blamed: “If it weren’t for your bright idea, we wouldn’t be in this mess”, or when someone is actively trying to deflect blame from herself onto you. The defensive person often makes others wrong while seeing herself as right. Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

Many DRIVEN clients fall into the camp of becoming self-justifying during feedback sessions. We all know this type of critique is vital for growth and improvement, yet some clients dread receiving it. Others, however, look forward to feedback sessions. A common personality trait of the latter camp is an openness to influence. They know that when trust and curiosity converge, critical feedback becomes a powerful agent for positive change. Those falling closer to the dread end of the spectrum have a variety of legitimate reasons to feel defensive, frustrated, anxious, disgusted or helpless before a session.

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When we help clients open up to reveal the reasons they fear feedback sessions, they change their mindset and instead derive wisdom from within! With that said, let’s take a closer look at receiving feedback and start to acknowledge it as the definitive example of Emotional Intelligence (and ultimately Emotional Courage).

The Big Questions

To best leverage feedback sessions, DRIVEN clients are guided to strategically prepare for the meeting just as we would for any kind of meeting. Of course, there are some physical ways to morph into a meeting mindset, like arriving early, doing the power pose, and dressing for success. But before a feedback session, add some extra steps to this process. First, zoom out and consider with perspective who else is involved in the feedback session. And since we’re all human, expect each feedback meeting to look different. Who’s giving you the feedback? What’s your relationship? Where are they coming from? For instance, when I hear from someone I don’t particularly like or admire, I don’t listen. I can hear their words, but not their message. And acknowledging that some people are just jerks, it’s also important to recognize that most folks want to do “good”, but sadly are unaware of their blind spots.

For some perspective, here are a few of the feedback provider archetypes that we share and discuss with our DRIVEN clients:

-“It might be your best, but it’s not the best”: This person will find fault with everything, regardless of its quality or excellence.

-“Oh, you China Doll”: This person is scared to give you feedback, fearing that you’re too fragile to receive the negative stuff.

-“Enough about me….what do you think of my idea?”: This person is interested in her agenda first.

-“I don’t have time for this”: This person has the time, but has little interest in feedback sessions.

-“Color me Coach”: This person is chipperly excited to help.

When considering who’s coming to the table with you, assess whether they fall under one of these personality profiles. If so, what is the trust factor between you? What kind of common ground do you share? How do they best hear?

In my follow-up article, we’ll look at the other player in the feedback session: You.