A while ago one of our customers was complaining to us that their internal training program ‘Feedback is a Gift’ was not received with much enthusiasm in their organization. No shit. Think about it though. Is feedback a gift? Is it really?
It’s A DIRTY punch in the brain.
Feedback is a dirty punch in the brain! When receiving (negative) feedback, people react dismissive, defensive or even aggressive. But why is that? Daniel Goleman calls it the amygdala hijack: when we receive a negative stimulus (like unpleasant feedback or stress), our amygdala gets activated. The amygdala is one of the “feeling” parts of our brain and triggers a feeling of attack. Consequently, we enter a “fight or flight” mode. In other words, the amygdala hijacks the rational brain and brings us in a very emotional state. Still, we sometimes find ourselves in situations where it is necessary to give disagreeable feedback because someone’s behavior is unacceptable or their performance is substandard. So, what now?
UGH… What now?
You probably think: “So, since it is our primal nature with the amygdala taking the lead, I can’t do anything about it, right?” Not at all! Both givers and receivers of feedback can take control of the feedback process. With science on our side, we will share with you some tips to let the prefrontal cortex win from your amygdala! A feedback culture, isn’t created by giving negative feedback out of the blue. Start small and add levels of difficulty, once you’ve earned the right (and the trust!) to give more challenging feedback. Move on towards more expert levels of feedback, only if you already installed the first ‘tiny habits’!