How the "Feedback Monster" is Ruining your Conversations

Not long ago – the morning after I’d given a team workshop for a client – I felt a rising anxiety that something was very wrong. As I poured my coffee, I realized that I hadn’t heard from my client about the success of the workshop. It was driving me a bit mad: Did they not like it? Had it not been successful? Were they disappointed with my performance? I couldn’t shake the feeling all morning…and by 8 a.m., I had an entire conversation in my head about how I needed to fix this “problem” and elicit some positive feedback. I was convinced that I needed to do more. I needed to follow up with a phone call, an email, or a thank you gift. It was then that I realized the “feedback monster” was wiggling its intrusive little self into my thought process and that I needed to seriously chill out for a minute or I could destroy a really important relationship with just a few insecure words.

The feedback monster, as I call it, is the tricky mind-troll / fear-based voice in your head that leaves you hanging in the balance between feeling awesome and feeling downright sucky. It casts fear into your mind that you’re not enough, haven’t done enough, look silly, sound stupid, are under-qualified or inferior. It drives you to seek agreement or validation of your ideas or performance.

Positive feedback – or praise - has become a real necessity for so many of us. We NEED to know how we’re doing, how we did, or how OTHERS view us. We seek approval in this way, and when we don’t get it, we can be led to think, say and do some downright nutty things. There’s nothing wrong with seeking feedback.

But know this: @@When praise becomes the only thing you’re seeking in a conversation, you're setting yourself up to lose confidence and control.@@  

Here’s why: When all you are seeking is to hear “job well done” or “you sounded great” or “I loved your idea,” you put yourself in the position of being nothing more than what others judge you to be. You stray from being authentic and say only what you think others want to hear. You exhaust nervous energy by using humor to take the edge off an uncomfortable conversation, and this oftentimes backfires. You trip over your words. You over-talk or fail to listen. You circle back after leaving a conversation and continue to push for consensus or approval. That was the case with me and my workshop; I was ready to throw myself on the pyre simply because I hadn’t heard any positive feedback yet.

The next time you hear the feedback monster creating some doubt in your mind about your capabilities:

  • Ask yourself: what is true, and what is a story? Do you have any proof to validate what the fearful voice in your head is telling you?  If not, move on. If yes, get clear on the details and move forward from a place of certainty.
  • Tell yourself something good. Feel proud of how you presented yourself and your ideas. Feel good about your idea, your work, and yourself.  
  • Think about how the words you speak can offer value to someone. Instead of seeking praise, try offering it.

By the way, I did end up hearing back from my client that day...they were hugely happy with the outcome of the workshop, and I was hugely happy that I had decided to put the feedback monster to rest, even just for a day.