In the business world, if you want to find out what people think of you, it’s usually done in the form of performance evaluations by your supervisor. These scheduled evaluations usually center on your work, although it often focuses on your attitude.
If you are being evaluated by someone who doesn’t like you or is envious of you, these evaluations are useless, but if they’re done by people who like you and who use them to help you and the company, they can be very useful tools. The question is, are you able to take honest feedback or do you get defensive when you hear something unflattering about yourself?
Whenever I hear someone complaining about an evaluation he received, I often think of two quotes attributed to Winston Churchill. The first one is “Personally, I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught,” and the second one is “Men occasionally stumble on the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”
Most people don’t want to hear negative comments about themselves even though they profess to wanting to know the truth. It’s almost like eavesdropping on a conversation when you hear your name being mentioned. Curiosity makes you stand there with your ear to the door to hear what is being said about you, and all your defense mechanisms rush to the fore when you hear people saying terrible things about you.
In business, you can get away with giving a negative evaluation but in your interpersonal relationships it gets a bit tricky because you are dealing with emotions that may have been bubbling just below the surface, ready to boil over into a fight of mammoth proportions.
Many relationship feedback sessions are nothing more than “bitching” sessions, just used for the purpose of getting something off your chest but not designed to help the other person learn something useful about himself. These are the most debilitating sessions of all because they are not done with the purpose of finding ways to improve yourself; they’re just used to criticize and make yourself feel better.
But what if your relationship is in trouble and you want to fix it? You can’t fix it if you don’t know that it’s broken. You can only fix it if you can identify the problem. But are you ready to hear what your partner thinks about you even if it’s not complimentary?