Feedback is a Four Letter Word

Julia Casey, Entrepreneurship Specialist

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TL:DR: The four-letter word is gift.

Feedback is my third favorite four-letter word. By that, I mean the word gift. If you have been to one of my recent workshops, you would have heard me outline the expectation that feedback is a gift. Now, I must admit I absolutely stole this expectation (with permission) from the design thinking geniuses at It has become a staple guiding principle for my workshops and my life in general.

Why are you telling me this?: You, me, and everybody else needs to hear it. Intentional feedback creates growth, empathy, and learning. If you use the pretense of feedback as a stick, you are actively working against growth, empathy, and learning.

What does “Feedback is a Gift” even mean?: When I say “feedback is a gift”, I mean that feedback should be given and taken as a gift. Feedback should be given in a way that cares for the individual who is receiving it. Its purpose is to help the receiver grow and learn. Feedback should be taken as if care for the receiver was the giver’s intent. The receiver has the opportunity to deeply listen to and empathize with the giver. The individual who receives the feedback having taken the gift then can choose whether or not to keep and use it.

But some feedback is not useful: Yes, some feedback will not be useful like some gifts aren’t useful. My grandma bought me a perfume. She was well-intended, but it smelled terrible. I am never going to use it. In the same way, you may get feedback that just is not right for you and you will never use. Now, if my mom, brother, best friend, and boyfriend all buy me perfume, it might mean that I smell bad. In a similar vein, you may hear feedback that you disregard, but if it keeps coming up over and over from different sources, you should reevaluate.

#StartupLife: Honest feedback is the best gift anyone can give a startup. Feedback is essential to making your business better. As the starter/founder/vision-holder, it is difficult to feel like feedback is a gift and not a personal attack. Often times, we hold our ideas/businesses/innovations close to our hearts because we created them. They feel like a part of us. Suggesting changing them may feel extremely personal, but ultimately, it leads to increased growth, empathy, and learning.