Have You Met SARA? How We All Process Feedback

Home/Blog, Careers, Self Development/Have You Met SARA? How We All Process Feedback

Have You Met SARA? How We All Process Feedback

SARAWe have all been there.  You just walked out of your manager’s office and she has delivered some feedback about something you did in conjunction with a project you were working on.  The feedback wasn’t all that bad, but you have a slightly sick feeling in your stomach all the same.  Maybe you are a little hurt by the way the information was presented to you, or perhaps it’s just a overall sinking feeling because in your heart, you thought you had done a good job and delivered your task on time.

While feedback does give you excellent business information, when the feedback is about you personally, it is an entirely different experience than reading an inventory report, or glancing at your quarterly Quickbooks figures.  People have a much stronger emotional response when they receive feedback about their own performance.  It also does not matter whether the feedback is delivered in person, or if you are looking at data in a 360 degree feedback report.

Even though the person providing the feedback did it in a way that was easy to understand, it doesn’t always mean that you will believe the feedback, or that you will take action based on the information provided.

The reality is that most of us have a love/hate relationship with feedback.  We love it when it’s good and we hate it when it’s not.  What’s important to remember is that ALL feedback can be used to improve behavior and subsequently performance if it is used in the right way.

The SARA cycle describes the emotional reactions experienced by people when they are presented with bad news.  It doesn’t matter your job title, or your level in the organization, we all go through it.

  • S – Surprise.  This one is almost a given.  If you receive feedback you weren’t expecting, there will be a level of surprise tied to it.  Some people have even reported this emotion going to the extreme of being shocked.
  • A – Annoyance.  It’s quite possible that you’ll experience some level of frustration with the fact that you are receiving the feedback.  “Why would someone say something like that about me?”
  • R – Resistance.  This most often takes the form of disbelief or rationalization.  “Maybe that feedback wasn’t intended for me.”
  • A – Acceptance.  With time, most of us come to terms with the feedback and accept it for what it is.  Information that could prove to be helpful.

What’s important to remember is that feelings and responses to the feedback are not wrong or right.  The responses are normal and knowing that, you will be able to process those feelings and respond more effectively.

People who encounter the SARA cycle have two typical responses:

  1. You can react with a victim mentality and assume that the feedback was a personal attack and dwell on the pain that was caused.
  2. You can accept responsibility for the information presented and use the data to change and grow as a result.

I don’t think I need to tell you which response will get more respect from the organization.



By | 2016-10-25T16:34:06+00:00 July 26th, 2014|Blog, Careers, Self Development|Comments Off on Have You Met SARA? How We All Process Feedback