Receiving feedback

Receiving feedback is an essential skill for propelling personal and professional growth. Whether it’s in the workplace or in personal lives, feedback provides invaluable insights and opportunities for improvement. In this article, we will explore the art of receiving feedback – as well as offering tips, strategies, and real-life examples to help you navigate the process with confidence and effectiveness.

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Why is Receiving Feedback Important?

Feedback serves as an invaluable catalyst for personal and professional development, providing a wealth of benefits that can shape our journeys to success. By actively seeking and embracing feedback, you open the doors to profound personal and professional growth.

  • Constant Insights:

Feedback is an omnipresent force, flowing from our actions, results, and interactions with others. It serves as a potent source of learning, enabling us to gain insights from others and refine our performance as a result. Regardless of whether solicited or unsolicited, input from those around us holds the potential to guide us toward improvement.

  • Increased Happiness:

Receiving feedback provides the chance for individuals to gain a more comprehensive understanding of their own strengths and areas for improvement. Addressing these aspects is crucial to experiencing personal growth and a sense of accomplishment, leading to increased happiness in their personal and professional lives.

  • Unlocked Innovation:

Input from other people often brings forth fresh ideas, perspectives, and insights that can stimulate innovation. By actively seeking feedback, individuals can uncover new approaches and solutions, sparking creativity and pushing boundaries.

  • Trust and Rapport:

When we engage in the exchange of feedback, we demonstrate genuine concern for others and their work. This powerful act of active listening fosters trust and rapport, laying the foundation for stronger relationships and collaboration.

  • Sense of Purpose:

Feedback helps individuals gain clarity about their roles, responsibilities, and contributions. Understanding how their work aligns with the larger goals and objectives of the organization provides a sense of purpose, driving motivation and engagement.

  • Motivation and Growth:

Feedback possesses the ability to fuel our drive. Positive feedback acts as a confidence booster, nurturing our self-esteem and empowering us to excel further. Constructive feedback, on the other hand, equips us with the tools to overcome challenges, learn from our mistakes, and evolve. By leveraging feedback, we can set goals, monitor progress, and embark on a transformative journey toward continuous improvement.

  • Enhanced Performance:

Feedback acts as a guiding compass, helping us navigate our strengths and areas for development. Through targeted suggestions, we are provided with the necessary clarity to enhance our performance – and align our work with the expectations and standards of others.

  • A Culture of Learning:

Feedback serves as a conduit for ongoing learning and growth – by equipping us with new skills, expanding our knowledge, and cultivating fresh perspectives. When embedded within an organization, feedback nurtures a coaching culture that promotes continuous learning and innovation, bringing about an environment that thrives on the power of feedback loops.

  • Employee Engagement:

Regular feedback fosters open communication and engagement. When employees feel heard and valued, they are more likely to be engaged, invested in their work, and contribute their best efforts to the organization.

  • Solidified Relationships:

Feedback encourages open dialogue, builds trust, and promotes collaboration, leading to stronger and more productive working relationships. As a result, individuals establish stronger connections and relationships with their colleagues, managers, and team members.

Benefits of Receiving Feedback

For personal growth

Feedback serves as a powerful tool for self-improvement, enabling us to learn from our mistakes, refine our skills, and achieve our goals. It illuminates areas of development that may have remained hidden, helping us navigate uncharted territories and discover new opportunities. By giving and receiving feedback, we embark on a journey of continuous growth and self-discovery.

For team synergy

Feedback fosters collaboration and strengthens relationships within teams. It provides a platform for understanding diverse perspectives, facilitating open communication, and resolving conflicts. Through feedback, we gain insight into the needs and aspirations of our teammates, enabling us to work cohesively towards shared objectives. Not to mention, it cultivates a positive and supportive team culture, where trust and respect flourish.

For organizational success

Feedback plays a pivotal role in aligning our work with the vision and values of the organization. It ensures that our efforts are directed toward meeting the expectations and requirements of the customers and stakeholders. By actively seeking and embracing feedback, we become catalysts for innovation, driving the success and growth of our organization.

The Joy of Getting Feedback – TED Talk by Joe Hirsch

How to Get Better at Receiving Feedback

The process of receiving feedback often proves to be challenging, especially when faced with negative or difficult-to-hear remarks. To navigate this terrain effectively, consider the following strategies:

Seek Feedback Proactively

Actively solicit feedback on a regular basis, showcasing your eagerness to learn and grow. By initiating these conversations, you demonstrate a proactive approach to self-improvement, while also reducing the element of surprise and anxiety that can accompany unsolicited feedback.

When approaching your colleagues/ supervisors/ mentors to ask for constructive input, one good way to start the discussion could be something like: “I value your perspective and would appreciate any feedback you have on my recent project. I’m always looking for ways to improve and grow.”

Be Receptive

When receiving feedback, make sure to adopt an open mindset – while doing your best to understand the other party’s perspectives/ intentions. Practice active listening by giving your full attention to the feedback giver, and refraining from interrupting or arguing. Maintaining a receptive attitude creates a safe space for open and honest dialogue, fostering trust and collaboration.

As human beings, it is completely natural for us to have emotional reactions, especially when faced with critical or unexpected opinions. However, we all must learn to manage this tendency – and refrain from becoming defensive or argumentative. Take a deep breath, maintain composure, and remind yourself to listen and understand before responding. By staying calm and composed, you create an environment conducive to constructive dialogue.

Reflect and Process

Take the time to process the feedback before responding. Avoid impulsive or emotional reactions, as they may cloud your judgment. Step back, calm yourself, and reflect on what the other person has just communicated objectively. Consider its validity, relevance, and potential usefulness in your personal and professional growth. This introspective pause allows you to gain clarity and insight, enabling you to leverage the feedback effectively.

Now, let’s say you receive feedback from your supervisor during a performance review. They mention that your communication with team members could be more effective. Instead of immediately reacting defensively or feeling discouraged, take a step back and give yourself some time to reflect and process what the supervisor has just said.

You might spend some time asking yourself questions such as:

  • What specific instances or situations might have led to this feedback?
  • Are there any patterns or recurring issues in my communication style?
  • How does this feedback align with my own self-assessment of my communication skills?
  • What specific changes or improvements can I make to enhance my communication with others?
  • etc.

During this reflection phase, try to approach the feedback objectively, focusing on the message rather than any emotional reactions that may arise. Recognize that the other person is meant to help you grow and improve, and that their input presents a precious opportunity for development.

Embrace Growth Opportunities

Identify the areas for improvement highlighted in the feedback and determine the actionable steps you can take to address them. Be proactive in seeking additional guidance or resources that can support your growth journey. Implement the feedback into your actions and track your progress along the way.

Let’s get back to the example above. While reflecting on your supervisor’s comments, consider the validity and relevance of their input. Are there points that resonate with your own observations or feedback you’ve received in the past? Think about how the feedback aligns with your personal and professional goals. Are there areas where you can see potential growth and improvement?

Once enough time has been spent on processing the feedback, you are ready to respond thoughtfully and constructively. You might schedule a follow-up conversation with your supervisor to discuss your reflections – as well as share your action plan for addressing their input. This demonstrates your commitment to growth and improvement – while also fostering open communication and collaboration.

Practice Accountability and Resilience

Accountability means the ability to take ownership of your mistakes and setbacks. Avoid dwelling on past errors, refusing to apologize, blaming others, or making excuses for your shortcomings. Instead, acknowledge your missteps, apologize if necessary, and shift your focus towards finding solutions. Use the feedback as a learning opportunity, drawing valuable insights from your experiences.

Read more: 20 Bad Habits in the Workplace to Break

Managing Emotions When Receiving Feedback

Mastering the art of managing emotions when receiving feedback is a vital skill for personal and professional growth. Here are additional strategies to effectively navigate your feelings in such situations:

Express gratitude

Begin by thanking the other person for their efforts and insights. You could say something like, “Thank you for sharing your feedback. I value your input and would like to understand it better.” By expressing gratitude, not only are you “breaking the ice” in the conversation, but you are also reminding yourself that the giver is there to help you grow – and no matter how uncomfortable you are with what they have to say, there is always value to gain from it.

Read more: Not Saying Thank You – Why Do We Often Fail to Express Gratitude?

Cultivate an open mind

Approach feedback with a growth mindset, focusing on how it can enhance your work and performance. Instead of taking feedback personally or feeling attacked, think of it as an invaluable chance for learning. Recognize that feedback is not a reflection of your worth or character, but a valuable tool for growth and development.

Pause before responding

Take a moment to compose yourself and process the feedback before reacting. By doing so, you give yourself the chance to control any impulsive or defensive responses – as well as to gain perspectives and respond thoughtfully. If needed, politely request time to reflect on the feedback before coming up with a response.

Consider the source

Evaluate the credibility and intentions of the feedback giver. Reflect on their expertise, experience, and their relationship with you. Is it someone you trust and respect? Do they have relevant knowledge or a genuine desire to support your growth? Understanding the source can help you weigh the feedback appropriately and consider its relevance.

Reflect and take action

Take sufficient time to reflect on the feedback and assess its implications. Consider what you have learned, areas for improvement, and how you can align the feedback with your goals. Develop an action plan to implement it effectively, showcasing your commitment to growth and continuous improvement.

What to Do After Receiving Feedback

Thoroughly analyze it

Carefully review the feedback to grasp its key points, reasons, and expectations. Identify areas of strength and areas for improvement. Look for specific, actionable, and realistic suggestions that can guide your progress. By delving deep into the feedback, you can extract meaningful insights that will fuel your growth.

Seek clarification

In case you are not sure about anything mentioned in the feedback, ask for additional information, examples, or recommendations from the giver. This ensures that you are equipped with a comprehensive understanding of the input, minimizing misunderstandings and enabling you to act upon it more effectively.

Let’s say you receive feedback from a colleague that your recent presentation lacked clarity. First, consider requesting specific examples or instances where the presentation suffered – by saying something like: “Could you please provide specific examples or moments in the presentation where you found the clarity to be lacking? It would be helpful for me to have more specific insights.” Then, ask for suggestions on how you can enhance the clarity of your future presentations (e.g: “Do you have any suggestions or tips on how I can improve the clarity of my presentations? I’m open to learning and incorporating your suggestions into my future work.”)

During the conversations, do not hesitate to repeat back or paraphrase what you’ve heard – to ensure that both parties are on the same page. For example, you could say, “Just to make sure I understand correctly, you felt that the main points in my presentation were not clearly articulated. Is that correct?”

Allow yourself processing time

It’s acceptable to request some time to digest the feedback and contemplate your next steps. This period enables you to regulate your emotions, reflect upon the feedback, and prepare a thoughtful response. Just remember to set a reasonable deadline – so that timely action is taken.

Develop an action plan

Based on the feedback received, create a well-defined action plan to address the areas of improvement. Formulate SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) and outline the necessary steps to accomplish them. Putting your intentions into writing solidifies your commitment and facilitates effective execution.

Implement the plan

Execute the outlined steps in your action plan, actively making the necessary changes guided by the feedback. Monitor your progress closely and measure your results. Should you encounter challenges or require further guidance, don’t hesitate to seek additional feedback or support. Celebrate your achievements and recognize the efforts invested in your growth journey.

Guide to Receiving Feedback in the Workplace

Receiving feedback as a leader

Asking for feedback as a leader is a great way to improve your performance, build trust with your team, and foster a culture of openness and learning. Here, we have compiled some examples of how leaders/ managers can do that:

  • Have a go-to question:

It can be awkward to ask people point blank about what’s going on. When things are uncertain, they may be reluctant to share their honest opinions. So having a go-to question that you use regularly can help break the ice and signal that you’re open to feedback.

For example, you could ask: “What’s one thing I could do better as a leader?” or “What’s one thing I did well and one thing I could improve in the last project?” or “How can I support you better in your work?”

  • Embrace the other person’s discomfort:

When asking for feedback, you’re essentially requesting people to take a risk and share their thoughts with you. That can be uncomfortable for them, especially if they have something critical to say.

For this reason, don’t rush or pressure them into giving an answer right away. Give them some time and space to think and respond. You could say: “I know this is not an easy question, and I appreciate your honesty. Take your time and let me know what you think.” or “I understand if you need some time to think about this. You can email me or set up a meeting with me later if you prefer.”

  • Listen to understand, not to respond:

As mentioned, when receiving feedback, your first instinct may be to defend, explain or justify yourself. However, that can make the other person feel like you’re not really listening or valuing their input. Instead, try to listen with curiosity and empathy, and seek to understand their perspective. You could say: “Thank you for sharing that with me. Can you tell me more about why you feel that way?” or “I appreciate your feedback. Can you give me an example of when I did that?” or “That’s interesting. How do you think I could do better in that area?”

  • Make your listening tangible:

After listening to people’s input, it’s important to show that you’re taking it seriously and acting on it. Otherwise, the other person may feel like their message was ignored or wasted. You could say: “I’m glad you brought that up. Here’s what I’m going to do to address that issue.” or “That’s a great suggestion. I’ll try that next time and let you know how it goes.” or “I really appreciate your feedback. Here’s how I’m going to incorporate it into my goals and action plan.”

Receiving feedback from employees

  • On a specific project or task:

Initiate the conversation by saying, “Hi [Name], I recently completed [project or task] and value your perspective. Could you provide feedback on my work? I’m interested in knowing what aspects I handled well and where I could make improvements. How did my work align with your expectations and the project goals?”

  • In terms of overall performance:

Open the dialogue by stating, “Hi [Name], I am committed to continuous growth and enhancing my skills. Would you kindly share your feedback on my performance over the past [period of time]? I’m eager to understand my strengths and areas for improvement. Additionally, I would appreciate insights on how I can contribute more effectively to the team and organization.”

  • After a presentation or meeting:

Show appreciation and say, “Hi [Name], thank you for attending my presentation/meeting. Your input is crucial in my growth as a presenter/facilitator. I would greatly appreciate your feedback on how it went. What were your thoughts on the content, delivery, and level of engagement? I’m particularly interested in learning about aspects you liked and any areas where I could improve for future presentations/meetings. How can I enhance the effectiveness and impact of my future presentations/meetings?”

Receiving feedback on performance

  • Mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for feedback sessions, maintaining a receptive mindset.
  • Focus on objective facts and behaviors rather than personal characteristics or traits.
  • Seek constructive criticism that provides opportunities for growth, not just praise or validation.
  • Request specific examples or evidence that support the feedback given.
  • Ask for actionable suggestions or recommendations to enhance your performance.
  • Create a development plan based on the feedback received, setting SMART goals for continuous improvement.
  • Monitor your progress and actively seek ongoing feedback to gauge your performance.

Read more: Giving Effective Feedback – A Practical Guide for Success

Receiving Feedback

FAQs

How to distinguish between helpful and unhelpful feedback?

Distinguishing between helpful and unhelpful feedback involves considering the source, examining the intent, and evaluating the content:

  • Consider the source: Is the feedback coming from someone knowledgeable, unbiased, and genuinely interested in your growth?
  • Examine the intent: Is the feedback aimed at supporting your improvement or driven by negative motives? Helpful input usually has a positive and constructive intent, while unhelpful one may be intended to harm, undermine, or boost the giver’s ego.
  • Evaluate the content: Is the feedback specific, factual, and actionable? Helpful input focuses on observable behaviors, provides clear examples and suggestions, and relates to your goals and standards. Unhelpful one, on the other hand, is often vague, opinionated, and irrelevant, focusing on personal traits or preferences rather than actionable insights.

Why receive feedback from multiple sources?

By embracing feedback from diverse sources, we gain a more comprehensive understanding of our performance, enhance our decision-making, and foster continuous growth and improvement.

  • Diverse Perspectives: Feedback from different sources provides a range of perspectives that validate, expand, or correct any single viewpoint. This diversity of experiences, knowledge, skills, and biases helps us gain a comprehensive understanding of our performance, behavior, or situation. By embracing multiple sources of feedback, we can identify strengths and weaknesses, uncover fresh ideas or solutions, and avoid overlooking blind spots or assumptions.
  • Bias Filtering: Feedback can be influenced by various factors, leading to inaccuracies, inconsistencies, or personal agendas. By seeking input from multiple sources, we can compare and contrast the information received, identify consistencies, and filter out biases. This allows us to confirm the validity and credibility of the feedback, focusing on the most relevant and reliable insights.
  • Confidence in Consensus: Feedback from various sources reveals patterns, trends, and common themes, providing a majority view. Recognizing these consistent perspectives boosts our confidence in the feedback’s validity and relevance. It empowers us to trust in ourselves and take decisive actions based on the collective insights received.

Read more: Playing Favorites – The Dark Side of Leadership

Who should you ask for feedback?

When seeking feedback, consider approaching the following individuals:

  • Manager or Supervisor: Your manager or supervisor often has a comprehensive awareness of your performance, goals, and professional growth. Hence, they may help identify your strengths, areas for improvement, and assist in charting your career path.
  • Peers or Colleagues: Your peers and colleagues offer insights on teamwork, communication, and collaboration. Their perspectives can provide alternative approaches and valuable tips to enhance your work performance.
  • Customers or Clients: Feedback from customers or clients is crucial for understanding their satisfaction levels, needs, and expectations regarding your products, services, or interactions. Their input helps you improve customer experience and deliver better outcomes.
  • Mentors or Coaches: Seek feedback from mentors or coaches who can assess your skills, competencies, and potential. Their experiences, advice, and guidance offer valuable perspectives for growth and development.
  • Self-Reflection: Engage in self-assessment by reflecting on your work and learning outcomes. Utilize self-assessment tools or methods to evaluate your progress and performance, gaining insights into areas for personal improvement.

How often should you ask for feedback?

When it comes to the frequency of receiving feedback, consider the following guidelines:

  • Before Performance Evaluation: Request feedback prior to your official evaluation to prepare for the review, address any concerns, and highlight your accomplishments.
  • Monthly Check-ins: Seek feedback on a monthly basis to stay updated on your progress, make necessary adjustments, and ensure your actions align with expectations.
  • After Project or Task Completion: Ask for feedback after finishing a project or task to learn from the experience, acknowledge your achievements, and identify areas for improvement.
  • During Challenges or Guidance Needs: Request feedback when facing challenges or when you require guidance. This helps you overcome obstacles, find solutions, and seek the necessary support.

What are some common mistakes when receiving feedback?

When receiving feedback, make sure to avoid these common mistakes:

  • Defensive Reactions: Reacting defensively can harm your relationship with the feedback giver and discourage future feedback. It’s important to remain open, listen without hostility, and show appreciation for their input.
  • Taking It Personally: Taking feedback personally can hinder your ability to learn from it. Avoid feeling hurt, angry, or insecure, and instead focus on the opportunity for growth and improvement.
  • Ignoring or Dismissing Feedback: Dismissing feedback means missing out on valuable opportunities to enhance your performance. Respect the other party by considering their input seriously and using it to make meaningful changes.
  • Accepting Feedback Uncritically: Blindly accepting feedback without critical evaluation may divert you from your own goals, strengths, and preferences. Stay true to yourself and carefully assess the feedback’s relevance and accuracy.
  • Not Acting on Feedback: Asking for feedback but failing to act upon it wastes time and effort. Demonstrate commitment to your growth and improvement by taking actionable steps based on the feedback received.

Read more: Shooting the Messenger – Why Do We Blame Others for Bad News?

Additional Resources on Receiving Feedback

Models

Here are a few models that can enhance the process of receiving feedback:

  • SBI Model: Focuses on the Situation, Behavior, and Impact of the feedback, emphasizing specific incidents rather than personal traits or judgments.
  • Pendleton Model: Encourages active participation in receiving feedback through four steps: identifying strengths, identifying areas for improvement, receiving feedback from others, and creating an action plan.
  • STAR Model: Breaks down feedback into Situation, Task, Action, and Result categories, providing a structured framework for understanding feedback and its impact.
  • DESC Model: Involves describing facts and feelings, evaluating pros and cons, suggesting alternatives or solutions, and concluding with a summary or agreement, facilitating a constructive feedback conversation.
  • 360-Degree: Gathers feedback from various sources, such as managers, peers, customers, or mentors, offering a well-rounded and comprehensive view of your performance, behavior, or situation.

Books

Quotes

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”

Bill Gates

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

Ken Blanchard

“There is no failure. Only feedback.”

Robert Allen

“Make feedback normal. Not a performance review.”

Ed Batista

“No matter how good you think you are as a leader, my goodness, the people around you will have all kinds of ideas for how you can get better. So for me, the most fundamental thing about leadership is to have the humility to continue to get feedback and to try to get better – because your job is to try to help everybody else get better.”

Jim Yong Kim

“True intuitive expertise is learned from prolonged experience with good feedback on mistakes.”

Daniel Kahneman

“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.”

Elon Musk

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

George Bernard Shaw

Final Thoughts

Mastering the art of receiving feedback is a lifelong journey that requires practice, patience, and a growth mindset. By accepting peoples’ input with an open mind, actively listening, and implementing strategies to handle feedback constructively, you can transform criticism into opportunities for learning and development.

Remember, receiving feedback is not a sign of weakness – but a testament to your commitment to self-improvement. So, embrace it, learn from it, and watch as you flourish both personally and professionally.

Other resources you might be interested in:

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