Why I Hate Feedback
By Roberta Hill

Sure, third party feedback is important. But what do I do with it?

I hate getting feedback. I know, how dare I admit it? Aren't coaching, consulting and assessments all about feedback? Perhaps... but who wants to take a bitter pill, even if others say it's good for me? Generally, I think feedback can be devastating, especially if I feel the person giving the feedback has an agenda. It's easy for me to get defensive. Besides, I don't always know what to do with it. I just don't like it, even when I could benefit from it.

People, organizations and social systems need to continually evolve and adapt to our environments if we wish to thrive and grow. According to Peter Senge, information is essential for this process:

Human beings learn best through first hand experience... But "learning by doing" only works so long as the feedback from our actions is rapid and unambiguous.1

Unfortunately, few of us have valid, honest, open feedback available to us. Nor do we know how to get it.

The use of assessments, particularly 360-degree feedback instruments and climate surveys, may hold the key to receiving useful and practical feedback. The output of assessments provides data that is packaged in a personal but non-judgmental format. Most of the tools that coaches use do not have a right or wrong answer. They usually provide information about someone's interests, preferences, behavioral style, or motivations, to name a few. Individuals then have a solid basis to understand how they might come across to others, especially when third party observer input is added to the mix. Any psychometrically sound assessment, used in conjunction with a skilled administrator, will provide clients with the opportunity to check their self-awareness. This information can be processed and used to develop action plans to improve emotional intelligence.

But don't be misled and fool yourself into thinking that assessments are completely neutral. Most of the assessments coaches employ are self-rater -- so people are just giving feedback to themselves. Multi-rater feedback processes and climate surveys, while much more behaviorally sound, still rely on the perceptions and biases of others. We only think the assessment is objective because we get a lot of statistical numbers and averages or fancy looking computer-generated reports. 

We have to deal with millions of separate pieces of data or information every day and we do it quite effectively and simply. The trick is to ask ourselves: "What is important here?" Otherwise we will suffer from information overload. I think that the same is true of feedback.

So what is a person to do? Here is a perspective that will work for you and your clients when facing feedback, especially when using assessments. Constantly remind yourself: "This is just one more piece of information. It is just data; you can do whatever you want with it." Use it to build self-awareness, use it to create action plans, or decide it's not relevant and set it aside.

So dear friends, unless I ask, don't give me any feedback. And even when I ask, think twice.

Roberta Hill is a PCC as well as a PMC and Certified Teleclass Leader with CCUI. Roberta owns, an online assessment provider with a network of more than 40 worldwide-qualified coaches. Read more about Roberta in the WABC Coach Directory. She may be reached by email, at:

1 Senge, Peter, The Fifth Discipline (New York: Currency, 1990), 313.

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