This week’s tip is about skillfully responding when someone asks: Can I get your feedback? Before we dive in, it can be helpful to understand this feedback dynamic better.
First, remember that getting asked for feedback is generally a very positive opening act of a feedback experience. It likely means the feedback seeker respects your skills or thinking enough to approach you. Second, the research on feedback-seeking behavior (going back to 1983) is mostly in their favor — suggesting that those who seek feedback tend to have a greater chance to develop professionally and be viewed more favorably by others.
It’s also worth being aware of a few other dimensions that can arise here. Let’s begin with what can arise from the seeker. The seeker may be coming to you with various intentions, including the following:
- Confirmatory feedback. They have an existing belief about something and want you to confirm it’s the right direction. This can also show up in tip-the-scale feedback, which is next on the list.
- Tip-the-scale feedback. The seeker has received feedback pointing them in different directions, and they are seeking yours to tip the scale in favor of one or the other.
- Performative feedback. The seeker may not necessarily be interested in your feedback, but they are interested in ensuring that you perceive them as a humble seeker of feedback.
Moving to the feedback giver, these are a few common issues that can arise:
- Feeling a bit of the power of being asked, they make stuff up or otherwise over-talk, or assume the role of an expert in an area they are not — all in the hopes of delivering something helpful or being perceived as helpful.
- Not given a timeframe, the giver assumes the seeker needs the feedback immediately and rushes to deliver it before they’ve thought it all through.
With all that in mind, I’ve found it can be helpful to do the following:
- Respond with something like, “Sure thing. I’ll try to be helpful.” This confirms your willingness while psychologically priming you for humility so you avoid the issues mentioned earlier.
- As the ask unfolds and if it feels right, ask for additional context that may be helpful. This isn’t a gameshow where you need some details to be hidden; parsing out intentions may be helpful to know.
- Center time. If the seeker doesn’t say they need your feedback now, ask when they do. And if you feel you need time to offer your best perspective, ask for it.
Before you go…