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The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well

I bought this book after hearing and loving the author on a Tim Ferris podcast.

I’m a firm believer that not being taught/educated on understanding our emotions and thoughts and how to process them is like expecting people to reinvent the laws of physics and electricity generation on generation. This book is part of my always-ongoing attempts to better understand my mind, in this case from the perspective of feedback: how I deal with conversations about me.

I thought the book was great! It could’ve been more succinct for what information it gave, and in the end it turned into a full-blown productivity book with tips and tricks I really am tired of hearing, but I still thought it was a worthwhile read overall.

Actionable takeaways:

  1. Although we outgrow the obvious asking for our parents attention, we don’t outgrow the desire to be appreciated and acknowledged. It’s best to acknowledge and accept this in ourselves and others.

  2. Some forms of appreciation are less obvious - coming to someone first for advice when trying to solve a problem can feel like appreciation. And stopping this leads to the feeling of lack of appreciation.

  3. The best way to solve a problem is to acknowledge the pattern that everyone already sees and reassure that you’re working hard to overcome it.

  4. We need to approach conversations with the intent gap in mind - we judge our behaviour by our intentions, others judge it by how it makes them feel.

  5. Very often one conversation turns into two (“why did you buy me red roses, I’ve told you multiple times I don’t like them?” Turns into a conversation about (1) why you never listen to me (2) why you’re so ungrateful) → we need to recognise when this happens and give both conversations their space. Many disagreements look like this.

  6. You don’t need to change someone’s personality to change a problem - just changing their roles can help (if someone spends too much money, put them in charge of the budget to better understand).

  7. When panicking about feedback we’ve been given, it’s good to consider two things: (1) what is the story we are telling ourselves about what was said and (2) what do we think is threatened if our story is true. This can help give us the distance to approach the real situation.

  8. Praising effort rather than intelligence makes people much more willing to learn, take risks and test themselves (intelligence makes them worried and don’t want to test/grow). So don’t say “you’re so smart!”, say “you worked so hard!” (this includes self-talk).

  9. It’s much nicer to use “AND” where we use “BUT”: “I know you’re worried about me, and I needed to do this for myself”.

  10. A nice thing to say when given upsetting feedback: “That’s upsetting to hear, because it’s not how I see myself or how I want to be”.

Fun extras:

  • “I’d like to see you again” can mean “You’re the love of my life” to someone and “this was fun” to someone else.

“My advice for you is based on me.”
“This is how you are” only means “this is how you are in relation to who I am”.
  • A year after winning the lottery, people tend to be just as happy or sad as they used to be before it.

  • 65% of arguments couples have are about the same things they were having arguments 5 years ago.

  • Positive and negative feedback are processed by different parts of the brain.

  • Appreciation at work is a key determinant of how people feel about their jobs - and it’s not just lack of appreciation that is the issue, if it’s not specific enough (thanks for everything) it isn’t helpful either. Be specific when trying to be appreciative.

You can’t stay motivated if you have you try your hardest all the time → you need to feel the satisfaction of exercising your new skills too.
  • 3 things to remember when taking feedback

  1. You will make mistakes

  2. Your intentions are complex

  3. You have contributed to the problem



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