Difference between understanding feedback and applying it.

We talk a lot about giving and taking feedback. There is enough literature about this in the world. In the last month I realised that there is something far more important than giving and taking feedback: Applying it.

For instance, when I give someone feedback on their writing, they get it. They understand what they’re doing wrong, and apply it in that instance.

BUT, in the very next sentence, there will be the same problem and they wouldn’t so much as have noticed it. This has a fundamental problem: Believing that the reviewer is the one responsible for the output. A good reviewer takes responsibility and fixes it. But, if you keep letting them fix your copy, you would never improve.

Here’s what you can do to internalise and apply feedback consistently. Ask the following questions:

Do you know why you’re doing it in the first place? For instance, let’s say you’re repeating a word in a sentence. It could be because you aren’t proof-reading thoroughly. So, the solution is to perhaps proof-read the next day or listen on text-to-speech.

Do you really agree with the feedback? So many people reluctantly change things that they don’t agree with. They’ll do it once and not bother to fix everywhere else. So, if you don’t accept the feedback, let the reviewer know — debate it.

Do you care about the project? Sometimes, a boss will shove unsolicited / unwanted work on their juniors, which they’ll do half-heartedly. In this case, you hate the work itself, the feedback is only more pain. Still, finish up and move on. It’s okay. Happens to the best of us.

Do you care about improving? This is a little deep. Let’s say you’re a programmer who doesn’t really like code, and you dream of being a film actor. You might not take any feedback on coding well because you don’t care about doing a better job. In which case, rethink what you’re doing — it’s unfair to you and your employer not to give it your best.

(I’m not saying make coding your passion. I’m just saying, if you’ve committed to something, the least you could do is the best you can.)

Do you understand the nuances? The same feedback might have to be applied differently in different places. Think about the implications of applying the feedback across. Know what are the exceptions, what are the variations etc.

If the answer to all of the above is yes and you’re still struggling, try this: Practice. Write key feedback on a post-it note, stick it on your wall and apply it indefinitely across all opportunities until it becomes second nature.