Receiving feedback is an important skill that can help you grow personally and professionally. How you handle feedback can impact your relationships, your ability to improve and your overall success.
Remember the QTIP: quit taking it personally. You are still OK, even if some of your behaviors need attention. Consider it diamond-polishing time.
Who decides if a feedback session has been successful? The receiver determines its effectiveness.
Look inward and consider these three trigger reactions that authors Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone of “Thanks For The Feedback” say block our ability to receive feedback well:
- The truth trigger: Believing the content of the feedback is inaccurate or unhelpful.
- The relationship trigger: I don’t trust the credibility of or the positive intent of the giver of the feedback. The focus goes from the feedback to the person giving it.
- The identity trigger: Distorting the feedback and believing there is something wrong with me, therefore I feel overwhelmed, threatened, ashamed and off balance.
Do you find yourself relating to one or more of these triggers when receiving feedback? It’s important to know that receiving constructive criticism takes practice. The following eight tips will help you develop a positive mindset when receiving feedback:
- Focus on the content, not the person. Assume the person has positive intent. This perspective staves off angry replies. Go in with an open mind. Look for the nugget of wisdom in the feedback.
- Listen calmly and attentively. Breathe. Tune in fully and demonstrate your willingness to listen; this will help create a safe environment. Manage your emotional reactions. Pay attention to your facial expression, body language and tone of voice. As soon as you start to feel this person has offended you, say the word “stop” to yourself.
- Clarify the feedback. Ask a question. Repeat what you’ve heard and ask, “Is that right?” Find out information which will help you understand your specific behavior or patterns and its impact on others. Be sure to seek specific examples if they’re not given.
Be mindful of using an interrogating tone. Practice the question, “What do you mean by that?,” with a genuine desire to learn and grow rather than to defend or attack.
- Acknowledge the other person’s concerns. Show you understand the other person’s perspective. This guarantees the sender-receiver communication loop is successful, allowing for more discussion. Concur with what you know to be true. Indicate your willingness to address the concern.
- Avoid defending or overexplaining yourself or the situation. This response is often rooted in fear, and what you are most defensive about is the area needing the most growth. One difference between a servant leader and a self-serving leader is how they handle feedback: self-servers protect their status and fear losing their position. A key to being coachable is to drop your defensiveness by reminding yourself what really matters. If you can’t accept bad news or advice, you can’t learn, change or grow. It’s hard to hear the truth if you’re busy defending yourself.
Correct any inaccuracies you hear in a non-defensive manner.
If needed, take time out before responding to sort out what you want to say. Is what you’re about to say going to improve the situation? Make a repair if you feel it may have come out wrong.
- Welcome suggestions. Focus on solutions for the future. Look at it this way: would you get mad at a golf pro or ski instructor who criticizes your form? Remember it’s your performance, not your identity.
Ask for one suggestion on what you could do differently. You are adopting the mindset of how this person and this interaction can help you be better. Turn failure into fertilizer.
Take notes where appropriate. It calms nerves and shows you are taking this seriously.
- Thank the person for sharing the feedback. This shows appreciation that others cared enough about you to share their perceptions. They had alternatives. It means you agree with their assessment and are taking it seriously.
This positively reinforces and encourages others to provide feedback.
- Evaluate the feedback you received and decide how you may use it. State what actions you will take, if appropriate. Give further thought and consideration to the feedback received. Take ownership. Choose if and when to act.
Work it into your relationships and projects and after an agreed upon time, ask if there’s noticeable improvement.
Talk to a coach or mentor about the feedback – and process it.
Potentially schedule a follow-up conversation if it’s a larger issue.
How you act afterward is most important: you prove you value their opinion.
“The key to growing as a leader is to narrow the gap (of how you see yourself and how you want to be seen) by developing a deep self-awareness that comes from straight feedback and honest exploration of yourself, followed by a concerted effort to make changes,” said Bill George, Harvard professor and former chief executive officer of Medtronic.
Receiving feedback can be challenging, especially when it’s critical or unexpected. However, with practice and a positive mindset, you can use feedback as a valuable tool for personal and professional growth.
Paul D. Casey lives in the Tri-Cities and is the owner of Growing Forward Services, which aims to equip and coach leaders and teams to spark breakthrough success. He also is the executive director of Leadership Tri-Cities.