Everyone has an opinion about you. The reason that some people are your friends and others aren’t, that you talk more often to some colleagues than with others… is all because of the image they have of you – and the other way around. You could be surprised what people have to say about you!

No need to get angry about anything people say. Others often have about surprisingly little information to base their view of you upon, and they use these bits to draw parallels with things they believe and know. Someone’s image of you, even someone who knows you well, is more interpretation than fact.

You could say that that makes it useless to ask other people for feedback. What do they actually know about you anyway? And it’s true: someone’s feedback will seldom take in account the deeper truth behind your behaviour. But wait a minute!

Often people see things that you don’t see yourself. What you hide even from yourself, can be eminently obvious to others. What irritates you in others, is something you may not be finished with yourself. In that sense, other people’s feedback is essential for your development. They may not know why you’re doing something or exactly what it means to you, but they are the witness and protagonists of the consequences of your actions.

Johari Window

Exchanging feedback with others is a good habit, and often we don’t do it enough or keep it inside until it becomes a searing ball of negativity that is too hard to swallow. That could lead you to believe that someone isn’t open for feedback, but more often than not they feel attacked and become defensive.

So your mission for this month: ask five people for feedback about yourself! That could be about your work, your communication, your general aura… with your partner, family, friends, colleagues or even strangers. Don’t defend yourself – just say ‘Thanks’ and let it sink in. Don’t forget to write it down – you can look back at it later and note any evolutions you’re making.

And part two: give spontaneous feedback! Some tips about that:

  • Keep it positive. Feedback doesn’t only imply making people aware of their shortcomings. Work with compliments and opportunities for improvement.
  • Speak about your own experience with the person you’re giving feedback to. Don’t generalise, it’s always just your own interpretation.
  • Mean it. Go for confrontation and honesty rather than being hypocrite and giving false compliments with double meanings. Being confrontational is also feedback to yourself: do you dare to be honest with people? And do you manage to stay positive when you give difficult feedback, and in the face of people’s reactions?

Make it a habit to give people feedback on things they do. That means complimenting what they do well, and indicating as soon as possible when you think something could be done better. Don’t become an eternal commentator though – it’s more about starting up an open conversation with someone about how you perceive them. The latter is gold! The difference lies in the honesty with which you communicate, your awareness of your own projections, and your commitment to discover the other person’s model of the world and expanding your own.