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Embracing the Messiness of Feedback

Melissa Welker, MD MPH examines how entrepreneurship moved her from avoiding feedback to embracing it.

As a physician, I remember early on feeling the discomfort that came when I went to give feedback at the end of a rotation or evaluations.

Even when surveys are sent to me asking for my advice, opinion, or preferences, I am unlikely to answer them.

I even received feedback early on that I should only check patient feedback when I was ready to embrace disappointment and hopefully had ice cream available. As an entrepreneur this has come full circle and now I think often about how to get feedback in better, more authentic and useful ways. Because I need it, I really want to know, and I realize how hard it is to get getter and grow without it.

 

I received feedback early on that I should only check patient feedback when I was ready to embrace disappointment and hopefully had ice cream available. Click To Tweet

 

I found myself sitting in front of a google form wrecking my brain thinking of the best way to get good data and answers from physicians for physicians. I was trying to get myself to fill out the very type of survey that I usually ignore. Then it hit me how fundamental feedback is and how hard this integral tool feels when we use it.

 

Just the other day I noticed I do ask for feedback routinely with patients, and I actually want it.

At the beginning and end of meeting patients I routinely ask if there are any other requests, concerns, or things we can do better? I love when I find out there is this easy thing that can transform a patient’s journey through surgery and usually I only find out when I ask.

However, even knowing this I can hear that other voice telling me, what if I get feedback that just sucks? I have even gone so far as to have detailed discussions on whether or not we should even use the term “feedback,” but that would require too much time and interest in esoteric linguistics.

Embracing feedback is hard, it feels scary, as it seems you are inviting criticism and judgement that might reveal a hidden vulnerability.

The kicker I have found is it is so critical, still so hard, and I both seek it and recoil from it, sometimes at the same time. And since I cannot avoid it, I am learning to embrace it, despite myself.

 

For a while I thought it was just me.

However, I realize it is perhaps even harder to sit with another person in that space of evaluation.

 

Embracing feedback is hard, it feels scary, as it seems you are inviting criticism and judgement that might reveal a hidden vulnerability.

 

I have sat across from fellow physicians even when just discussing the events of a difficult case and felt the discomfort, the hand wringing, dry throat, foot twitching attempts at escape from evaluation. Even when I am on the other side, feedback can feel so hard.

It feels hard to the extent that I find myself judging myself for how I approached my colleague, the setting, and ask, was that better than avoiding the whole discussion.

 

The reality that I have found is there is no escaping feedback, there is only escaping direct feedback.

Somewhere between our avoidance of giving feedback or asking for it, things, like a game of telephone get mixed up and shuffled with emotions until them come out as backhanded compliments or growing resentment. And honestly, the more I crawl out of my own insecurity the more I would rather just hear even the times where I have messed up directly, even when it hurts.

 

On feedback: the more I crawl out of my own insecurity, the more I would rather just hear even the times where I have messed up directly, even when it hurts. Click To Tweet

 

So here I am, asking for your feedback, even when I do not want to want it.

If you are a patient, I will do my best to truly listen and ask for your feedback, even if I am feeling vulnerable.

If you are a partner or client, I will do my best to do the same.

And hopefully, when I give and receive the feedback myself, I will remember, that I wrote this…and this is what I choose to want, and with empathy, vulnerability and courage we will grow, together. 

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