The spiral of negativity – listen for feedback

Perseverance and looking for feedback are key the developing a positive attitude in our interactions argues Steven Harris in his penultimate article in a series on customer service.

“Never, never, never, give up.” Winston Churchill

The biggest single reason for failure to achieve what we want to achieve is because we give up when it gets hard. Or we give up as soon as we encounter the first hurdle or obstacle. Hurdles and obstacles should be seen as feedback or as the universe telling us we have not got it quite right or that we are moving in the wrong direction. We should see this as a positive piece of feedback as it helps us get back on track.

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It is imperative that we understand the art of perseverance. Think about it. If it was easy everybody would be doing it. Things that are really meaningful, that will take us to a new level are nine times out of ten hard to achieve.

Imagine you are asked to strike a nail into a piece of wood using a hammer, but you are allowed one strike only. Unless you are very talented indeed at DIY, what are the chances of you getting the nail right into the centre of the piece of wood, so the head of the nail is sitting flush with the piece of wood? No chance I hear you say.

Instead, it would obviously be much easier to get the result you require by making many small, well-judged taps that end up driving the nail into the wood with careful precision.

My advice, as with all that I’ve shared with you so far, is to go and practice tapping away until you get the result you want. Try it out and give yourself time to master the ideas. Do not get disillusioned if it doesn’t work for you the first time, instead try it again and again until you notice some changes. Just like the story about the piece of wood many things, involving a change in behaviour, take time to practise and time to master.

Listen for feedback

We only know if we are on track by listening out for feedback. The real challenge though is to ensure that we take feedback in a positive way and learn from it. Traditionally if someone says, “I need to give you some feedback” our first reaction is “Why? What is the matter?” or “What have I done wrong?”

If you have ever had the chance to sail a boat, you are taught to focus on a point in the distance where you wish to travel. You then set off with your eye fixed on the point in the distance that you have set as your destination.

Within a few seconds you will notice that you are off track and therefore you will alter the sail to change direction to get back on track. Within a few more minutes the same thing will have happened, you will be off track again. So you alter the sail again and get back on track again.

The reality however is that you will be off track much more than you will be on track. What is important is that you respond to being off track and attempt to steer the sailing boat back on track. If you do not you will find that you will end up miles off course. If you had not set sail until the wind was exactly the speed and direction needed to take you straight to your destination, the chances are you would never leave the shore.

When a co-pilot or navigator tells the pilot in a plane to change direction by a certain degree, the captain does not say to himself why? What have I done wrong? Instead what he does say to the navigator or co-pilot, is thank you, and then takes the necessary action. Just like with the sailing boat if he didn’t take the appropriate action, he too would end up way off course.

So it is really important to embrace feedback as a positive way to ensure that we get back on course and to ensure that we are heading in the right direction to achieve our objective.

About the author 

Steven Harris is founder and managing partner of Energize Learning and can be contacted at These articles are based on his book Fired Up and Ready to Go!



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