Which Complaints are Worth Listening to?

A teacher friend of mine recently expressed frustration that she doesn’t get the respect that she feels she deserves from parents and students.

I wonder which feedback she’s paying attention to? Too often in life we listen to the feedback of the lowest performers, and allow it to color our perceptions.

Here are three questions I use with my clients to evaluate feedback:

1.  Is it credible? feedback button

When people disrespect you, disagree with your or any other response you find troubling, it’s worth asking: who’s the source? Are you getting a negative response from people whose opinions you value? Or are you letting perpetual whiners drag you down?

In the case of my teacher friend, I’d be curious to know how her five best students, and their parents feel about her. Most educated intelligent people have profound respect for teachers. We cherish
the teachers who have positively affected our lives, and the lives of our children. We also know when someone is phoning it in.

If you’re not getting the response that you want from people whose opinions you value, consider a reframe. For my teacher friend, I suggested that if her top students and parents respected her, she could consider the other students her opportunity.  She might not be able to change the parents, but she could certainly influence her students. Instead of feeling frustrated by their lack of respect, she could teach them what respect looks like, why it matters, and how it affects the people you interact with.

2.   Is it consistent?

One of the great, and horrible, things about the Internet is that everyone gets to voice their opinions. I recently purchased a light fixture for our powder room. Before buying, I read the consumer reviews. 90% of the reviewers gave the fixture four and five star ratings, but 10% of the buyers hated it. Some said it was hard to install, others complained that it didn’t give off enough light. Reading the negative reviews, it was apparent that the unhappy buyers were unrealistic. One was trying to light an entire dining room with low wattage, and others didn’t understand electrical installation.

When you’re evaluating feedback, it’s critical to assess both the source and consistency. Outliers should only be listened to when they’re credible. But if you hear the same thing from multiple objective imagesources, pay attention. It’s your opportunity to learn. We bought the fixture, because the consistent theme from informed reviewers was positive. My electrical savvy husband installed it in our small nook, and we love it.

3.   Should I allow this to become part of my story?

Recent studies reveal that across all professions, only 1/3 of people consider their job a “calling.” Those of us who do consider our job a calling, take it personally when we feel critiqued. If you allow someone else’s perception to color your core beliefs, you’re buying into their story.

For example, I understand why teachers are frustrated with the low pay versus high importance ratio of our current system. But if you buy into the idea that the kids and parents don’t respect you, it’s only a matter of time before that perception becomes your reality. In my experience, the people who say teachers are “lucky” because they “don’t have to work in the summer” are generally people who despise their own jobs.

Complaints are a valid source of feedback, but they aren’t all worth listening to. Discern which ones have merit before you react.