Watching, Listening, Learning
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | June 2018 (edited June 16, 2022)
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, assisting with self-discovery and improvement. If we disregard messages because we perceive them as ignorant and malicious, we may miss golden nuggets of wisdom that is only available from external observations; much critical feedback is only available through others.
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 of gaining wisdom, we foolishly protect with defensiveness, missing valuable insights that provide opportunities to enhance skills, 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 subject of their misguided comments.
We Evaluate Source of Feedback
Because faulty messages are possible—and abundant, it’s easy to disregard valuable messages containing rich insights. Wisdom gets lost in the sludge, disregarded by our protective egos. Our naturally competitive states get involved, our insecurities rise to the intrusions and wisdom suffers. We justify our arrogance, fears, and protections by blaming the advice as flawed.
"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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