Why asking for feedback is useless

One of my least favorite things to do is to give feedback.

Whenever someone I don’t really know or trust asks me for feedback, I usually turn them down.

It’s not because I don’t want to help; it’s far from it actually. I value and look forward to being able to share my insight, experience however and whenever I can. If there’s anything I can do, reasonably within my limits, I’ll always be more than glad to put in the effort.

The reason why I don’t live giving feedback is because I’ve realized, over the years, that most people don’t actually want feedback. They don’t care for it.

A few years back, after giving a talk about UX (User Experience) and accessibility in Taiwan, I was approached by two founders who were building a marketplace type app. They had spent a greater part of a year designing and building their app and wanted my feedback.

I remember the expressions they had when I told them that while the design was sleek and clean, how the app was mostly unusable, especially if they had planned on targeting people in their fifties and sixties as their target demographic. The looks they had were looks of disbelief, confusion and anger.

What they wanted wasn’t really feedback. It was praise, encouragement, or anything that would serve as validation for what they had built.

I understood their emotions — as a founder of multiple startups myself, I’ve learned first-hand at how painful it is to be criticized on the product you’re risking your future for and spending all of your time and efforts on. It hurts. But even though it hurts, I’ve always understood the need for brutal, honest feedback, especially if asked for it.

The founders had asked for my feedback. They told me specifically that they had wanted me to be absolutely honest, in the most unadulterated as-real-as-it-gets way possible. They said they wouldn’t mind no matter what.

So I gave them feedback. First were the looks of disbelief. Next were the excuses.

“Oh, that’s not an important part of our app so don’t worry about that.” “Oh, we know about that problem already but it’s okay because most people probably won’t click on it.”
“Oh, don’t worry that either, I’m sure people will figure it out.”

If you’re not prepared to acknowledge feedback, then why ask in the first place? You’re wasting everyone’s time. It’s also an irrational way of thinking; as a first-time user to the app, the problems I encounter will likely be problems that other new users will experience as well. Does it make sense to let our egos stand in the path towards success?

Feedback at the end of the day is just feedback. They’re mere opinions. They might be useful, they might not — but regardless, it’s always important to be willing to acknowledge feedback because they’re opportunities to keep improving. It’s okay to not agree with someone’s feedback, but if you can’t find it past your ego to acknowledge feedback given, what would have been the point of asking for it in the first place? The answer you wanted would’ve already been in your mind all along.

About the author

Jon Lee

I travel the world in search of lessons worth sharing. Addicted to culture shock and transparency. Currently working on heeyy and duuck.

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