Facing and Overcoming the Fear of Feedback

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Facing and overcoming the fear of feedback can take lifetimes and believe it or not it is unnatural. In our webinars and as a facilitator for 2Win!, founder Ed Jaffe explains frequently how our brains are hardwired to respond negatively to stimula that threatens our status quo. Organizational feedback, especially in the form of reviews, that generally ask us to make changes in our behavior or announce changes in our environment are inherently threatening. Change is bad in our minds and it produces a fear based response. 

How do we face these fears and edit our responses when we are getting feedback? Harvard Business Review published an article that framed feedback responses as adaptive or maladaptive, click here for full article, and we are going to expand on these ideas with our knowledge of behavioral psychology and presentation basics. 

The Endemic and Evolutionary Fear of Feedback 

Prior to a review or after a review, you may experience fear based responses that depend on your own conditioning. This is a completely normal human response. Some people suffer from clinical anxiety and the review brings this on because of the fear of change. We do not like to be criticised. This is probably the easiest concept we have ever written, so no need to expound on it, but there are some behaviors that are really damaging that occur surrounding a review that are not even the response of the event itself. These are Maladaptive Strategies and the way to overcome them are the adaptive strategies. 

Maladaptive Strategies to Responding to Feedback 

Maladaptive Strategies to feedback may include, denial, procrastination, insubordination, and sabotage. Here is a run down of how they may play out. 

Denial: In some instances, the easiest way to handle requests for change is to dig your head in the sand. If you ask for a raise or have aspirations that are unheard or acknowledged or you in turn heard something you did not like or challenged the job you thought you were doing, denial is a strategy that takes you nowhere. If your needs are not met, or you are unwilling to listen or make adjustments, resentment builds or you will suffer consequences of non performance. 

Procrastination: This is one of the most relatable and identifiable strategies for dealing with feedback. Just put it off. Whether you do not want to give the feedback or you do not want to accept feedback procrastination, like other maladaptive strategies or behaviors, will result in further degradation of performance and will not lessen the impact of the final review or request for change. 

Insubordination: This behavior is most likely to occur if you react personally to feedback. You may experience a loss of interest in meeting deadlines, loss of interest in projects, and loss of respect for coworkers and supervisors. It rarely ends well, if you employ this strategy or behavior before or after a performance review or feedback session. 

Sabotage: Sabotage is a popularized behavior and is easily recognizable in hindsight. It can play out in combination with any other maladaptive behavior or strategy and ends badly in many instances without intervention or self awareness. 

Adaptive Strategies to Feedback

Adaptation graphic of evolution Facing and Overcoming the Fear of Feedback
Facing and Overcoming the Fear of Feedback

Facing and Overcoming the Fear of Feedback

We discuss the ease of the default in much of our content at Demo Solutions, whether you are defaulting to a bias during a presentation, or you default to a behavior that is most comfortable to you. For many people, feedback defaults are combinations, to lesser extents, of maladaptive and adaptive behaviors. The success of the feedback and the value comes when someone is able to tackle the feedback objectively. Demo Solutions offers coaching on feedback and sales process that you can contact us about here, and below are some of the tenets we practice. 

Develop Personal Awareness: The very first step in developing a positive relationship with feedback is to develop and foster personal awareness regarding feedback. Do you exhibit some maladaptive behaviors? Are there some emotional triggers that come up when you receive feedback? This is much easier in therapy or coaching, but the very easiest thing you can do the next time prior to review, or during review, is to observe your body without judgement and see if there are physiological responses. Is your heartrate up? Are your palms sweating? Then observe your self talk. Are you belittling your evaluator? Are you weighing yourself against others? How do you really feel? Are you hurt, annoyed, ashamed, how is it manifesting, before you practice a maladaptive strategy, if you recognize the feeling you can catch yourself, then redivert your attention. 

Motivation and Goal Driven Accountability Partner: Once you have developed some personal awareness, a next step is to have an accountability partner. Regularly discussing job performance objectively and how you are doing in meeting goals makes a review much easier to bear, because you are used to it. This can be a mentor, a co worker, a therapist, or a Demo Solutions Coach. How you are going about this is understanding your motivations for addressing the feedback, then setting goals and action plans for addressing the change that needs to be made. Your accountability partner is there with you the whole way and can also help you if you find yourself slipping into some behaviors that are not helpful to your goals, or are maladaptive. 

Feedback Framing: The practice of framing or reframing feedback is important in helping you understand the feedback from a number of perspectives. Use the help of your accountability partner, use a therapist, or your coach to assess how much of the feedback is something you can change, and make a plan, and how much of it is based on a situation outside of your control. There are times when you will face situations that require you to leave because there is not a solution or something you can actually change. Rather than deny the situation or behave in maladaptive ways, making a tough decision is required. 

We hope some of this information is useful to you or your team. Demo Solutions really appreciates all feedback and tries to practice what we preach. Drop us a line and let us know how we are doing and what we can do to help you! 

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