How to Be Successful with Feedback

“The only thing worse than not requesting feedback is not acting on it.”

Frank Sonnenberg

Forty years ago, I lost $35,000 on an unsecured promissory note. It was a Ponzi scheme, a type of fraud in which belief in the success of a nonexistent plan is encouraged by the payment of quick returns to the first investors from money invested by later investors.

The man told me I would receive 32% on my investment. Does that sound too good to be true?  It was.  Not only that, I borrowed money from a relative at 10.5% to buy into the venture.

When I asked my friends, colleagues, and relatives whether I should invest in this, they said, “No, don’t do it.” I didn’t listen.

Has it happened to you? You ask people for feedback and do it anyway when they say don’t do something. I lost the money.

I was mortified. I avoided my friends, hoping they’d never ask me what happened to that business deal. And then, one day, a reporter from the Sacramento Bee, my hometown newspaper, called and asked my advice on an issue plaguing our community: people were losing money on a Ponzi scheme.

The reporter asked me, “Dr. Nemeth, you’re a well-respected psychologist. You’ve been recommended as an expert on human behavior. I’m writing an article, and I have one question for you:

“What kind of person gets taken by these Ponzi schemes? What’s wrong with them? What diagnosis would you, as a psychologist, give them?”

She was talking, unknowingly, about what I’d done! I said to myself, “Enough of this running away. I’ll tell her my story.”

She warned me that she was writing an article about this, and was I sure I wanted everyone in Sacramento to read about it? I let her know that if other people could benefit from hearing what I’d done, it would be worth it to me if they found out.

That incident began my foray into the world of people and their relationship with money. It then developed into a training program on success with money, time, and other forms of energy.  Among other things, people looked at where they had feedback from people in their lives that they’d been ignoring.

I don’t know anyone who enjoys feedback until they learn how to use it 

to fuel their success. That’s normal.  It’s built into our brains to perceive as a threat anything that disagrees with what we see. And there’s a way to get beyond that experience to see a way forward that will lead us to be successful.

Peppered throughout my articles has been the definition of success that brings us closer to having what we want in life.

Success is doing what you said you would do consistently, with clarity, focus, ease, and grace.

A question that often follows from this definition of success is:

“What would bring more ease to my life?”  One answer is learning to use feedback to discover if you are going down a path that will bring unnecessary failure into your life.

Feedback, whether from friends, colleagues, or relatives, is stressful.

I remember hearing this from someone who leads three medical centers. She was talking about one of the scheduled assessments from a governmental agency:

Judy: It’s like being told your baby is ugly over and over again. I prepare my staff to receive feedback by telling them to look for the jewels of wisdom in the input. This empowers them to go beyond the stress and to look for what they can do to improve the quality of our medical procedures.

So being on the receiving end of feedback is uncomfortable. Brené Brown has something to say about that experience:

“I believe that feedback thrives in cultures where the goal is not ‘getting comfortable with hard conversations’ but normalizing discomfort.”

In other words, it is normal to feel uncomfortable. Let’s go beyond the inevitable stress and see how to use it to fuel our success.

Your “Assignment”

This is how you do it:

  • Recognize the good intentions of the person giving you the feedback. They are taking the time to focus on you because they want to support you to be successful. They have decided that talking to you is more important than withholding their words.
  • Look for the jewels in the conversation. There is always something to be gleaned from “hard conversations.”
  • If you don’t find any jewels, you’re not looking hard enough!
  • Ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand what they’re saying.
  • Follow this up by taking action on what you’ve discovered. Sometimes the most essential thing in the conversation is difficult to hear!
  • If what you’re about to do is crucial to your success, check it out with one or two others. Look for where they agree with the feedback, not where you’ve possibly tailored the conversation to give you what you want to hear! Everyone has done this at least once (yes, that means you too!)

Do you want to get an A+ in this assignment? Do this. Say to at  least one person who loves you the following:

“Please tell me what you’ve always wanted to give me feedback on. The things that I haven’t taken to heart to do. I have this pen and piece of paper with me and I’ll write down whatever you say. And, to the best of my ability, I’ll go ahead and do it!”

After you pick them up off the floor in shock, do what you just said. You might not have to have the mortifying situation I experienced 40 years ago! I promise a breakthrough is waiting for you!

To your success!

“Listen to Your Conscience, That’s Why You Have One”

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