Up to this point we’ve dug pretty deep into the concept of Resilience, mainly focusing on the internal dialogues that are critical to our improvement, time management, and focus; in order to dial in on what it takes to really push forward and succeed, however difficult that may be.
In this article we are going to change it up and focus on one external factor that requires a lot of resilience, Accepting Feedback.
Feedback is critical to improvement because it illuminates the blind spots that hinder our maximum potential. Outside of incredible internal revelations, there aren’t many cures for blind spots other than feedback. When it comes to self-improvement in anything, blind spots are your worst enemy.
What are blind spots? Psychological blind spots are described as personality traits or behavior traits that we possess, but are unable to see. Similar to a physical blind spot in our vision. In eSports, I’d refer to it as a performance blind spot. Aspects of our gaming performance that we are unable to see regardless of the amount of time we spend playing. This can mean that we see no progress, make no improvements, but end up playing for the same amount of time. Not only can that be deflating over time, but it’s an extremely large reason players fall short of their true potential, and ultimately stop playing. This is why coaches are vital to team sports. They nurture the existing ability of players, while also taking them to their potential through seeing what the player cannot.
Let’s look at a few examples of common performance blind spots:
Example 1: You’re playing for a team and the team is struggling to stay above a 50% win rate. Every game you’re going positive on your K/D/A, 1v3ing the opponent successfully, and down right stunting on everyone. Nobody on your team is playing terrible, but every match seems like it’s a coin flip. At this point you’re thinking about leaving the team. Clearly they can’t keep up with you. One of your teammates mentions after a loss, “I think you are rotating off of the objectives too quickly. It’s forcing us to rush.” Let’s assume you accept the feedback, adjust accordingly, and suddenly start to win more. That means that even though you were playing exceptional, you had a performance blind spot stopping you from earning the win. Despite being the top performer, you were the person holding the team back.
Example 2: You’re playing at a local fighting game tournament. You just lost your second match and are out of the tournament. Your opponent says to you, “Good games, I noticed that in this situation, you did the same thing every time. I would suggest switching that up.”. To which you reply “I do it because it usually works on everyone.”. So the question becomes, how much is usually? Against what caliber of player? How often does it not work? This is a blind spot created by a habit that sees success, but without knowing exactly how much success. If you don’t seek that information and make the adjustment before the next tournament, what is the likelihood of placing higher?
Example 3: You’re trying to climb the ranked ladder in your game of choice. You constantly lose, and play terribly. It’s not uncommon for you to blame teammates for “not playing properly”. Somebody remarks that it’s not them that’s playing poorly, it’s you. Your responses can be incredibly varied at this point. “This game is just terrible.” “You don’t know what your talking about” etc. This is an obvious performance blind spot, that needs no elaboration.
Based on the examples above, and many more that I’m sure you can relate to; you can see how Accepting Feedback can affect your improvement greatly. It’s important to note that performance blind spots will always exist. There’s always something that we can be doing better, and we often won’t know what that is right away.
So it’s settled! Acknowledge the existence of your blind spots, wait for feedback, and when it comes accept it! Easy! ….
Why Accepting Feedback is Difficult
Okay, so it’s a well understood fact that Accepting Feedback is difficult. Especially if we use the word ‘Criticism’. Nobody enjoys being told that they are doing something wrong, or could be doing something better. It can be looked at as a true skill to comfortably accept feedback. Let’s see if we can make this easier, and ultimately improve your performance by breaking down what makes Accepting Feedback difficult.
More often than not you will be given constructive feedback immediately after a loss. Although the information may be crucial, even to your next match in the tournament, you’re being given this feedback while you’re in your most vulnerable state. You just lost. You’re battling all of your internal dialogue, which can take many different forms. Such as “I should have had that!” or “If I only….”. Sometimes even worse, such as “Why do I even play?”. With all of that circling around in your head I’d bet that you probably don’t want to hear anything from the person who just beat you, or even from someone who has your best interest at heart.
On the flip side, you just won a match. Accepting Feedback in this position is even harder. At this point you still have internal dialogue, but you are washed over by the feelings of relief and euphoria. Your brain is not naturally seeking feedback at this moment because you just won. You battled through and came out on top. So even if someone does provide you feedback at this moment, chances are you’ve already moved on to preparing for your next match.
The timing never seems right.
There are so many different factors that come into play emotionally, and it differs for every person. For some it can be arrogance, or overconfidence. This can stem from not having a gauge of their true skill based on the opponents they regularly face or how they choose to practice. For others it can be fear or insecurity stemming from a desire to accomplish something while remaining unique or true to themselves. Regardless of the category, this specific section could be an entire post by itself because it draws heavily on traditional psychology.
Emotions play a huge role in how we perceive ourselves, others around us, and our desired outcomes. Therefor it takes a level of cognitive preparation to enable us to handle feedback. Which I can say for most, is not an easy task.
Not every piece of feedback that you will receive will be useful, or truthful. Identifying the right feedback becomes difficult when we become picky of who delivers it to us. Obviously it’s hard to trust our opponents unless we know them personally and have had improvement discussion in the past. What if it’s the person we beat in round 1 every tournament? Does their feedback matter? Do they know what they are talking about? Should I listen to a person who doesn’t even play the same characters as me, let alone the same game? How do I qualify the feedback given to me? When should I listen to it?
There are two widely accepted ways to make this less difficult. First, actively work to improve. If you are managing and measuring your performance you will have a grasp on what’s been working, what hasn’t been working, and how it aligns with the feedback you are receiving. So if you have been practicing (the right way) daily, and someone tells you that you should practice more. Then you know the feedback is off base. It can not solve your current dilemma.
The other way is to attempt to accept all feedback as true. At first anyway. If you look at the feedback from the persons perspective you can implement it in safe environments and decide upon it’s accuracy. After all, they are telling you something that differs from your perception. It could be lying in your blind spot, or it could simply be false. You won’t know if you constantly block out all feedback.
You also succeed in helping others provide you with more feedback. People who may know exactly what you need to hear, may be fearful of having the conversation with you. Limiting your opportunities to gain new perspectives.
Now that we have discussed some specific ways that Accepting Feedback can be difficult. I want to wrap up with the one solution that can make all of this easier, and ultimately help you improve your performance.
If you really want to advance, make a career out of eSports, or just play at your best. It’s critical that you are fully in control of your progress. In regards to seeing your blind spots, there is no better way than to actively seek feedback. The three main difficulties outlined above become manageable when you seek the feedback as opposed to letting it come to you. You take control over the timing of the feedback. Successfully escaping the pattern of unfortunate timing. By making the decision to seek the feedback, you are emotionally priming yourself to accept and understand the answer. Even if you have to swallow down any emotions, the step forward creates a new level of assured confidence. Seeking feedback then turns into practice, and as you practice seeking feedback, you understand how to qualify it more accurately.
This slowly but surely illuminates your blind spots, and allows you to reach new levels of your game by making changes to things that you cannot see. Ultimately increasing your confidence, performance, and understanding. Not just of the game, but of yourself as well.