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The Psychology of Feedback: Why We Fear A Natural Process

Feedback is a natural law in our world. Some call it karma, others call it cause and effect. Feedback is the resonance we experience as a result of our choices and actions. And, for better or for worse, they tell us if what we’re doing is any “good” at all.

Unfortunately, we occasionally suspend our belief in this natural phenomena because we can’t simply bear to experience any negativity that could imply that we’re “doing it all wrong”. Saying “no news is good news” runs counter intuitive to any progress we stand to gain. With that said, when it comes to inter relational affairs, one must simply see the act of giving and receiving feedback as matter of fact as gravity, the sun rising in the east, and rains falling from clouds in the sky: a totally and completely natural part of life.

Why do we shy away from feedback? This question begs to question our psychology. What about it makes us nervous?


Feedback judges two things: our choices and our performance. Not only are we judged for the outcome, but for the input: ideals, motives, mind frames, and attitudes. Then, when others judge us for our input, we foolishly assume that others judge us for who we are because we tie our identity with what and how we think. I don’t have to wax philosophical when I say we are not, at a fundamental level, our thoughts: We are the creators of our thoughts, not creations of our thoughts.

Moving on, as we identify so closely with our choices when it comes time for review we find ourselves defensive for the choices we’ve made and the thought processes that led up to them. How does this serve us to move forward? It doesn’t. Detachment from this paradigm is key should we choose to use feedback in our favor.


We tie our identity to our performance, and like Pavlovian dogs, if others reward us for good behavior, then we must be good people. Here’s the problem: The definition of good varies depending on the influencing ideals. Maybe, for a corrupt brokerage firm, selling millions of dollars in bad loans is “good” performance because of the perceived financial rewards – but for the salesperson, this might not actually feel so good after a while when their conscience starts to wear thin. In this example, we’ve noticed two types of conflicting feedback. Which one matters more to the salesperson’s identity?

With this said, feedback is a natural condition, but it’s our own meanings that misconstrue its ultimate purpose. Simply, performance is a measure of past thought processes. To change future performance, one must change present thought processes.


So, when imagining the next time you’ll be giving or receiving feedback, see the experience as an opportunity to do two things:

  1. Shift thought processes and decision making protocols.

  2. Affect future performance as a result.  

Perceiving the feedback process in a natural, essential way takes away the stigma of performance reviews. Even if the criticisms are harsh (and maybe at times rude, uncalled for, and unnecessary) extracting our own response to the process and outcomes takes away the power anyone might think they have over us with their feedback. With this paradigm, we choose how to use the feedback and allow it as a way to examine thinking and attitudes from an objective standpoint.

Feedback in its truest form is empowering. At its core, it’s a process that validates our creative abilities and consciousness to either perpetuate what we’re choosing or select actions that lead to totally different outcomes. It’s a liberating opportunity to receive feedback – that is, if we choose it to be.

Coach Leslie’s Questions To Ask Ourselves:

  1. Am I afraid of getting feedback? Am I angry when someone tells me what they think about my performance? What drives that discomfort?

  2. Do I avoid giving feedback out of fear of conflict? What reasons do I have to not give feedback? Do these reasons outweigh the benefits of providing feedback?

  3. When I give feedback, do I criticize and focus more on what was done in the past or do I encourage ways to change what is happening now in order to change outcomes?

  4. Do I attach myself to my choices and thought processes? When all of these constructs are taken away, who am I really?

  5. If I were to completely change the way I think, what would I be then? What kind of results would I get then?


Leslie, Inc. offers solutions for finding happiness through one-on-one coaching, mindful leadership retreats, and digital products. If you’re ready to GET HAPPY, check out Leslie’s guide packs. For more tips on achieving your state of happiness, sign up for Leslie, Inc’s weekly newsletter.

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