Watching, Listening, Learning
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | June 2018 (edited December 3, 2021)
Critical feedback devastates the sensitive ego, but defenses prevent learning.
Receiving critical feedback is not easy. The ego intrudes, and criticism feels like rejection. Yet, criticism can be constructive, even when poorly presented, leading to self-discovery. If we perceive messages as ignorant and malicious, we miss hidden wisdom only available from external observations; many critical feedback messages are only available through human interaction.
Some Feedback Hurts
Some messages hurt, challenging beliefs, behaviors or dreams. By instinctively disregarding all messages because they challenge our soundness or intelligence, we hobble personal development. Instead wisdom gained, we foolishly enact defensiveness, missing valuable feedback that provide opportunities to enhance our skill, knowledge, or wisdom.
"Feedback is the breakfast of champions."
Not All Feedback Has Worth
Not all criticism is valuable. There are false messages with malicious intent. Some insults are born from jealousies and bitterness. Other messages flow from those without helpful experiences, commenting without understanding. These messages give more insight into their character than the object they are commenting on.
We Evaluate Source of Feedback
Because faulty messages are possible—and abundant, it’s easy to disregard valuable messages with rich insights. Wisdom gets lost in the sludge of protective egos. Our naturally competitive states get involved, or insecurities rise to the intrusions of wisdom suffers. We easily justify our arrogance, fears, and protections on flawed advice and a rude delivery.
"We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve."
However, many sources of feedback are valuable. People with experience and skills may offer thoughtful critiques that help. A valuable message from a trustworthy sources still may be poorly presented. For example, a person may be a masterful engineer but a terrible teacher. Her insight on engineering may be valuable even if her social skills are lacking.
If we want wisdom, we must take time to listen, asking questions to better understand messages being conveyed, guarding against the protective recoiling of our ego. Once the air is cleared of the normal interference, we can mindfully evaluate the message for value. Our humble approach opens the door of a listening heart, we gain wisdom and we create an atmosphere where ideas, knowledge and experience are welcome.
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