Clean vs. Dirty Feedback

Be aware that feedback laced with judgments and interpretations is apt to be less well received than feedback that is behaviorally specific.

When your feedback clearly identifies behaviors, chances are it’s more objective.  When the behaviors are harder to identify, chances are that the feedback is more likely to be a byproduct of your own personal triggers.  This is easy to get mixed up because we think we are shining a flashlight onto what we see, when in fact we are actually projecting our own images onto almost everything around us.  Usually, we attribute to others as ‘real’ what in fact we are contributing to through our own preconceptions.  We often describe aspects of the impact of a situation on ourselves, and present it as objective, when it is not.


“The highest form of human intelligence is to be able to separate behaviors from evaluations.”

Feedback works best when it is invited (requested, or permission obtained).

Rather than considering feedback as positive/negative, praise/critical, instead, try looking at it as challenging or confirming.

  • Challenging:
    something that is likely to be challenge or invalidate the recipients self perception.
  • Confirming:
    something that is likely to support or validate the recipient’s self perceptions.

At the same time, however, don’t shy away from the words ‘negative’ or ‘judgment’ — they are present all the time, whether voiced or not.  To the extend that we can acknowledge it, we can work with this information for change.

Most of us already know how to drive a car — some of us better than others, and some under more varied conditions than others.  Look at developing “feedback skills” as analogous to a defensive driving course for personal interactions.

  • Feedback can be pushed (skilled delivery), or pulled (skilled receipt).
  • Feedback is a skill, and a way of staying connected to others.
  • Use it as a tool, and teach others about it.

Feedback is just information to process.  It does not have to be part of your self-identification.
What you do with feedback is a choice.
“Feedback is information, not identification!”

cf.: Defense Mechanisms

A Paradox of Feedback:

  • If you disagree with a criticism which is totally untrue and unfair, you will immediately prove that the criticism is entirely valid.
  • In contrast, if you genuinely agree with a criticism which is untrue and unfair, by accepting the lie, you inadvertently make it true for yourself.

Break out of this paradox by recognizing critical feedback for what it is: information, not identification.

cf.: Guide to Giving Constructive Feedback
cf.: Reframing What Feedback Means


Primary Goals sits at the intersection of three core ideas about communication:
  • Leaders create vision by communicating a compelling future to their teams.
  • Teams create success based on how effectively the communicate and coordinate with each other.
  • Entrepreneurial ventures are successful only when they communicate value to people with a concern that the business can take care of
In all cases, it’s about Conversations for Committed Results.  That’s our Primary Goal.  



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