No B.S Friday: Only one in a hundred can even hear constructive criticism.
A little while ago I was trying to give some feedback to a difficult staff member.
I felt like it was probably time to let him go, but I’m a big believer in giving people the opportunity to take on feedback and grow and learn.
I’ve also learnt that its only one in a hundred who are actually capable of it, but those who can are total gems.
Anyway, it didn’t go so well.
And it actually got a bit aggressive.
“Hairy little frog scotum” I think he called me.
(He’s no longer working with us.)
And this is pretty normal as well. Not everyone can really take on feedback, especially when it gets past the level of purely technical skills.
We were talking social skills here, and he wasn’t very happy to learn that not everyone thought he was charming and endearing. “Miserable turd” is how another staff member described him.
And so, as I was trying to give feedback on his ability to be an effective human, he got his back up.
Now typically, people say that this is because in that moment they’re feeling insecure, and aggression is a common response to feelings of insecurity.
And I think that’s part of it.
But I also think part of it comes from shattering an illusion.
Like this guy genuinely thought he had tip-top social skills. That was the picture he had of himself. To shatter than picture was, for him, pretty full on.
It’s like this quote I’ve always loved:
“The nature of illusion is that it’s designed to make you feel good. About yourself, about your country, about where you’re going – in that sense it functions like a drug. Those who question that illusion are challenged not so much for the veracity of what they say, but for puncturing those feelings.”
— Journalist Chris Hedges
Now you can apply that to anything. Break someone’s illusion around how the world works or how wealth works or how power and politics works, and you get an addicts aggression.
But its especially true of the illusions we have about ourselves.
(and we all have them.)
But those illusions make us feel good about ourselves. They help us navigate the world and fortify our sense of self worth.
When they come under attack our strong, instinctual reaction is to fight. Is to push back.
And this is why, as you may have noticed, not that many people are all that happy to receive feedback, no matter how constructively its offered.
Just something I’ve noticed.