Willpower workout 10: Giving and receiving constructive feedback

Willpower Workout #10: Ask for and Giving Constructive Feedback

September 4, 2020

Throughout this week, we have tested ourselves mentally (Day 6), our will (Day 7 and Day 8), and our bodies (Day 9). Today, we want to test our emotions.

Most people recognize the enormous value of constructive feedback in their lives. Many would like more of it, but they rarely receive it because almost no one likes to give constructive feedback and rarely do people ask for it.

Why not ask for it if you believe it will be enormously valuable?

Some do, but many don’t because they want the value from it without the discomfort of having someone tell them where they need to improve. The prospect of receiving negative feedback creates cognitive dissonance. We know it will help us become better people and professionals, but we hate to accept the fact that we didn’t do everything perfectly.

To seek out constructive feedback aggressively – which is what is necessary to get good, consistent constructive feedback – you must be willing to endure the discomfort and pride-shrinking effect of facing your shortcomings. And getting really valuable constructive feedback requires significant willpower because you typically have to work hard to get it from others.

Being on the other side requires an equal, and at times, greater measure of willpower. Giving constructive feedback well is challenging – it requires a high level of cognitive and emotional intelligence. You must endure the emotional challenge of knowing you’re likely to make someone else feel bad. And worse, you don’t know how the recipient is going to react. It could get ugly even if you do everything right. On top of all those challenges, you don’t know whether it will really help anyway.

Giving and soliciting constructive feedback is difficult, but it is life-changing. In this workout, we’re going to do both.

Day 10 Willpower Workout:

  1. Think of 2-4 people who know you well enough to provide constructive feedback. Ask them one or both of these questions:
    • What’s the ugliest or most immature part of me that needs the most work?
    • What is my greatest or most urgent need for improvement?
  2. Receive the feedback without disputing any of it. Thank them when they’re done. You can ask for clarification.
  3. Think of one person for whom you have some recent constructive feedback.
  4. Go to or connect with this person somehow and deliver the feedback. Be as honest as you can.

Evaluating Your Workout:

  1. Which was harder: giving or receiving constructive feedback?
  2. What made the one you chose harder?
  3. What did you feel as you were about to initiate a conversation about either?
  4. How did you overcome the feeling of not wanting to ask for or deliver feedback?
  5. How can you use your experience in this willpower workout to increase your giving and receiving of constructive feedback?
  6. What emotion did you feel right before delivering the feedback?

Willpower Workout in Action:

Stay tuned for a brief video of me debriefing what happens when I attempt this workout and how to make a habit of this level of candor and efficiency. Subscribe to our YouTube channel to be notified when it comes out.

This is day 10 of a 40-day journey to explore your limits. If you’d like to receive a daily email with the willpower workout of the day, you can sign up here to start at Day 1 with the first workout:

If you’d prefer to jump in where Matt is right now and then make up the other workouts on your own schedule, sign up here:

Past Workouts: