Feedback – On the Road to Realistic Self-Perception

Has it ever happened to you to receive feedback, whether from a friend or through a performance review (at work), that unveiled an entirely different reality than the one you had believed? Yes, probably, because we have all had those moments when someone delivered their thoughts about who they think we are. The information is most likely to disturb our self-perception.

We all have our blind spots because, as humans, we are not capable of realistic self-perception.

What is Self-Perception?

Is there a more fruitful source for learning about our true selves? What can we do to improve the self-perception and self-knowledge of our personality? Research has shown that there are two main paths we can set on to learn about the self – introspection and feedback (looking inward and looking outward).

Self-Perception

Since many of us work in organizations, the time we have to ignore or refute unwanted feedback is short; either we accept and learn or move on. Our self-concept is built upon how we perceive ourselves according to the knowledge we’ve gained over a lifetime of experience. We can define it as an awareness we had, and have, and will continue to hold of ourselves. It is a perception of our abilities, image, and individual uniqueness.

Unreliability of Introspection

On the path to self-knowledge, we must rely on both internal and external reflections. Our first impulse is to introspect, and self-reflect and most of us give high weight to introspections. We are confident that our self-perceptions are more accurate than others perceptions of us. However, introspection is often an inaccurate source of self-knowledge. Over-relying on it trips us up – reducing our decision quality, decreasing performance, and undermining self-insight.

Why can’t we rely solely on introspection? Mainly due to our cognitive biases. Significant cognitive biases include our tendency to interpret events to our previous expectations and beliefs, inclination to see ourselves in a socially desirable and positive way, and the need for self-consistency. We are not able to perceive or correct our biases because we cannot uncover the unconscious.

According to the Dunning-Kruger effect and Illusory Superiority people tend to overestimate their abilities – by rule, the less competent people overestimate themselves more. For example, almost all people think that they drive a car well above average. But that is statistically impossible.

Feedback – External Input

Feedback can either negate or validate how we perceive ourselves. When it comes to feedback that is in direct opposition to our self-perception, it can trigger our brain to send us into high alert mode. There is an interplay between what we are told and what we think it’s true, so our minds start grappling with the discrepancies.

Seeking external input is necessary if you want to adjust your self-perception.

Accept others’ perceptions

All right. You get to know yourself better through the feedback of others and it helps you in your development. But not everyone is ready to accept others’ perceptions. Therefore, it is crucial for organizations to create an open-feedback culture and assisting employees in receiving and giving constructive feedback. It is important that (1) managers lead by example, (2) employees can participate in an (internal) workshop to get tips and practice, and (3) there must be a feedback method that everyone can use quickly and easily.

Persona.fit is an app based on 360 ° feedback, but new and improved. After all, a 360 is static and we want continuous, real-time feedback! It starts with self-examination: insight into your personality, ambitions and motivation. Then comes your reputation: how do others see you? All data is stored in the app and you decide what you do with it. You can follow your development, set goals and use it as input for conversations with your manager or for (e-) coaching.

Sven Prevoo

Sven Prevoo

Sven is an organizational consultant, assessment psychologist and trainer at LTP Online. He has a strong focus on HR Analytics and transforming teams and organizations through feedback, using the Persona.fit App. These topics are also discussed in his blogs, supplemented with recruitment, performance appraisal and learning agility.