receiving feedback

Become an Expert at Receiving Feedback

How do you feel while you’re receiving feedback? “You don’t have any initiative.” “You can never admit when you’re wrong.” “This seems like it was written by someone who has no idea how to write.” “I have major concerns about your leadership.” “You don’t know how to care for people.” “You seemed thoroughly unprepared.” “All you focus on are the obstacles.” “You’re a good speaker, but everything else you do is terrible.” “The meeting you just ran was completely unproductive.” “Your working here is hurting people.”

How’s that for feedback? Those are just some of the criticisms I’ve received from family, friends, coworkers, volunteers, and bosses over the years. Some of it was constructive and some, not so much. When I was younger, I ran from any feedback other than positive. It felt like getting hit in the stomach with a manhole cover. Sometimes it still does. But today, I actively seek it. The better we are at receiving feedback, the more we can grow and improve. If you are looking to take major steps in your relationships or career, improving your response to receiving feedback is a key component. Here are 5 ways to do it.

Assume there are things you need to work on.

Other people offer a view of ourselves that we can’t see. We all have blind spots and we’ll never know what they are until someone tells us. We will continue to rub people the wrong way, step on toes, and not advance if we choose to ignore them. Once I realized that, getting feedback became a lot more exhilarating.

Ask for specific feedback.

Life should be a pursuit of learning, particularly about ourselves.

Life should be a pursuit of learning, particularly about ourselves. I guarantee that the people around you know the things you need to work on. They are just keeping it to themselves. Ask people around you to be specific. Sheila Heen, who coauthored the book Thanks for the Feedback with Douglas Stone, suggests asking, “What is one thing I could do better?” Keeping it to one thing makes it more manageable and controls the feedback you get. Be ready, though because when you ask for one thing, you’ll still probably get two to three.

Analyze the feedback, not the person giving it.

Too many people dismiss true information about themselves because of the source or the timing. Anytime you receive feedback, it’s important to analyze honestly what is true and what is not. If you are like me, you can take tough feedback personally and feel knocked down. In response, I go to a friend who I know will tell me how awesome I am and not to listen to it. Heen says that while that’s OK for helping the recovery process, I also should be asking that friend what parts of the feedback I got are true. Now there are people in our lives who are toxic or ill-willed, who give “criticism” in order to bring us down. It’s appropriate and healthy to have boundaries on receiving feedback.

Don’t dismiss positive feedback.

It can be easy to focus on the negative and have only that replaying in our minds. Although it feels good to receive positive feedback, for some reason, I tend to dismiss it easily. It’s important when someone gives you positive feedback to measure it and let it sink in.

You don’t have to take the feedback.

Listening, being open-minded and objective, and analyzing it doesn’t mean you have to take the feedback. You may decide that there isn’t enough truth to it. Ultimately, it is your decision whether or not you think it is valid. Just make sure you go through the process and enlist the help of others in discerning the truth. The only difference between you and people who have the relationships and careers they want might be that they’ve accepted some solid feedback and have grown from it.

Sound off: What is the most difficult feedback you have ever received?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What was the hardest thing I have ever said to you?”