Why “Mirror Holders” Give Great Feedback

This article originally appeared in Inc.

Getting others to accept our feedback, especially when it’s negative, can be challenging. And while it certainly helps to share feedback that’s timely, specific, and growth-oriented, the best way to get others to be receptive to feedback is to describe a future they can still change and control.

Too often, managers share feedback that’s rooted in the past and prescriptive in nature. If you want your message to produce a more positive and meaningful result, start by changing your feedback mindset.

In short: Become a “mirror holder,” not a “window gazer.” Knowing the difference can make all the difference.

Window Gazers

“Window gazers” look at their surroundings and tell others what they see. Their view is one-sided and selective. When they size up others, window gazers already know what they’re looking for and where to find it. And because their field of vision is hyper-focused, they tend to lose sight of everything else within view.

Window gazers tend to give out very specific but myopic feedback about another person’s work. The message tends to be narrowly focused, subjectively framed, and limited in its perspective. It captures only part of the performance picture–the part that the window gazer managed to see.

Mirror Holders

On the other end of the feedback spectrum, you have “mirror holders.” These are the individuals who diminish their own view by enlarging the perspective of others. Mirror holders aren’t concerned with what they see–you can’t see much when you’re looking at the mirror’s opaque backside–and instead train their sights on helping others discover a better understanding of the issues staring right back at them.

Simply put: Window gazers tell others what to see. Mirror holders challenge others to see it for themselves.

When you give feedback as a mirror holder, you spend more time asking and less time asserting. Your feedback is guided by questions rather than assumptions. Rather than try to force a change, mirror holders attempt to provoke an insight, tilting the feedback dynamics from power to partnership and blame to inquiry. What might have become a fraught exchange turns into a positive exercise in relationship building.

The best feedback helps others understand their strengths and provides the encouragement and guidance to build on those strengths. Mirror holders set the conditions for positive and lasting change. Making that small adjustment in your mindset can produce a world of difference in your message–and just might help others see themselves in an entirely new way.

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