anonymous letters

Feedback

Feedback is a general term. Feedback is all around us. It can be good or bad. It can be positive or negative. It can be insightful or misinformed. It can be valuable or trash.

As my dad would say, opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one and they all stink. But when someone is paying you or has power over you, their opinion holds greater weight. You can’t just dismiss it as meaningless, no matter how short sighted or bewildering it may be. I guess that’s when, for me, it goes beyond just random opinion and becomes feedback.

Everyone likes positive feedback. It’s great when people love you. But what about when it’s negative? I used to spin out over criticism. I took it personally. I would spend days hashing it over in my mind, maybe with a friend I trusted. I’d often want to take my ball and go home and not play in whatever arena it was anymore. Why play if I am not good at it?

Now I try to reframe criticism as feedback. I think to myself, this person is telling me what is important to them. If my boss is unhappy with things lying around my workplace? He is telling me that his priority is how things look. If he takes me out of meetings that are about teaching and learning, he is telling me my priorities should be elsewhere. If he gets excited about special events and pizza parties, that’s where my attention needs to be.

Same holds true in sales. If a customer doesn’t like what I am selling and they tell me, it’s an opportunity to listen and adjust. I can learn what a customer values by listening to their feedback.

I may see things differently. I can argue that I didn’t get into education and earn a PhD to spend hours on clerical work. I can tell them all the things I do to help teachers. I can explain to a customer all the subtleties and value that I believe they missed.

Maybe I’ll change their minds, maybe not. Maybe I care, maybe I don’t. It’s my choice to play in the sandbox or leave. I can adjust my energy and priorities to match what others want or I can do something else.

Deep down I am a people pleaser and I like gold stars. But I have learned that I can control the amount of importance I give to others’ feedback, whether it’s positive or negative or somewhere in between. I can shake my head and keep going and not let it pull me from my path. Take it for what it’s worth and know that it does not determine my personal worth. Full stop.

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