For many of us, we strive to be better today than we were yesterday.
One of the best ways to achieve that is to get quality feedback. When it comes to feedback, we tend to ask other people because we fear our blind spots and propensity for self-delusion. Unfortunately, it's not always convenient or helpful to do that. It can be uncomfortable and depending on the person, highly unproductive.
Here are a few common thoughts that may cross your mind when you ask someone else to judge you:
How do I know if they are telling me the truth?
Are they credible enough to give me feedback?
What if they are misinterpreting my actions?
Is there a hidden agenda for the feedback they are giving me?
What if they are just jealous?
What if I don't want to change?
One way to reap the benefits of feedback without all of this hassle is to give feedback to yourself. You can do it at any time and it helps to heighten self-awareness. Also, you're more inclined to buy into any changes you want to make.
So how do you give yourself feedback?
You observe others and yourself and analyze what you see.
Here are a few effective ways that I've found helpful from Marshall Goldsmith's popular book, What Got You Here Won't Get You There:
Pay attention to other people's reaction to you
Instead of asking people to give you feedback directly, pay close attention to what they're saying and how they act around you.
One great way to collect feedback about yourself is to jot down every casual comment others make about you. Once you have a long list of remarks, assess whether each remark is positive or negative. This will give you a sense of people's general impression about you. The goal is to increase your ratio of positive to negative remarks.
Once you've collected enough of what people are saying about you, start observing how they react around you. It becomes easier to do this if you tune out what they are saying and hone in on their body language. They key is to note any differences in how to react to you versus how they react to others in general. Do they smile when they talk to you or are you usually met with rolling eyes? Actions speak louder than words but only if you're paying attention.
Try this method both at home and in the office. It works especially well during group meetings where people are not aware that you are observing them. You'll be surprised how much you'll learn just by arriving early at a meeting and observing where people sit, who they talk to and their physical manner during these interactions.
Monitor what you say and do
What you say and do is very telling of who you are. If you want to get your perspective about yourself, start by observing your words.
What are you saying to other people? What is the ratio of self-aggrandizing remarks to self-deprecating remarks? What are you really saying about yourself when you make them?
If you're like most people, you compensate - what you brag about is usually what you're weakest at and what you're humble about, usually reveals your strengths. By being aware of your strengths and weaknesses, you can decide on how you will improve those areas. You can also work on becoming less self-conscious about both.
After you consider what your speech reveals about you, take a look at your actions. How do you act around your boss, co-workers, friends, family, relatives and strangers? What differences do you see when it comes to different groups and certain individuals? Usually, your flaws at work will show themselves at home and vice versa.
Pick one thing you know you can improve
Whether you're observing yourself or others, take time to analyze what you see. During your analysis, be careful not to generalize behaviors. One person may act friendly towards you but it doesn't mean they like you if they act even friendlier to everyone else.
Also, as you pore over this fresh set of insights about yourself, compare it to your own self-image. Would the person you aspire to be talk and act in such a way? If not, what do you need to change?
When it comes to changing your life and sustaining that change, remember two things:
- People change ONLY if they believe it'll be helpful to them.
- The most productive way to do anything is to tackle one thing at a time.
So as you start to draw conclusions and find a few things to work on, I recommend that you pick ONE specific thing to improve. Once you decide what you want to work on, spend time to write one benefit to you and one benefit to the world when you successfully make this change.
For those who would like help pulling it all together, here is a 6-week regimen that you can follow:
- Week 1 - Make a list of what people are saying about you and categorize them as either positive or negative. Note anything that comes up often.
- Week 2 - Pay special focus to other people's body language towards you. Watch for any differences in their behavior depending on what you do and say. Also, contrast it with their manner towards other people.
- Week 3 - Monitor what you are saying to others about yourself. Observe how you introduce yourself, your answers to questions and the way you deal with compliments.
- Week 4 - Look closely at how you treat other people. Find trends in your behavior and think about what those patterns say about you as a person.
- Week 5 (BONUS) - Listen to what you tell yourself. When you do well, what do you say? When you fail, what comments do you hear internally? You probably hold yourself back more than you know.
- Week 6 - Review all the information you've gathered about yourself from the last five weeks. Identify three aspects of yourself that you want to change. From those three, choose one that will have the most impact on your life and create a plan to make that change.
Giving yourself feedback might feel strange at first but armed with some concrete observations, it is a powerful technique for personal mastery. Good luck!
If you know someone who might benefit from this article, please share it with them. Also, if you've learned something helpful about yourself through this technique and would like to share it, please leave a comment below.
Photo by Victor Bezrukov
Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. He specializes in working with high performers get to the next level. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.