In my previous article on this topic, 5 tips to improve the quality of feedback we provide, I wrote about being on the “giving” end of feedback and ideas to help do that well. Now let’s talk about the moment when someone says, “hey, I have some feedback for you.” Now you are the recipient! Do you cringe in anticipation of what is to come? Then read on … and try to reframe and reimagine how to view this as a positive opportunity. To be our best selves feedback is an essential element in our growth and development.
1: Feedback is a gift. If we see feedback, or feel it, in any other way we limit our ability to learn and grow from it. When someone gives you a gift, it is your decision what to do with it. Will you appreciate it and use it, store it away for later use, or discard it completely because you don’t like it or see value in it? Whether the feedback was positive or constructive, the person that gave you that gift hopefully did so with the intention of having a helpful impact. It takes nerve (and caring) to give feedback. All of the above mentioned options on what to do with it can have validity, as long as we objectively and honestly consider the information, and can be open to seeing it for the gift that it is.
2: Feedback is data. If we can view feedback simply as data and separate ourselves from the emotion surrounding it – positive or tough emotions – we can then process it, and consider what to do with it. What is it telling me? What can I learn from it? How, if at all, can it help me in growth and development? Positive feedback could be sending me signals of strengths or behaviors that I want to lean on or benefit from. Constructive feedback gives me the opportunity to experience my impact from someone else’s perspective and consider if there are growth opportunities for me.
3: Objectively consider feedback regardless of the source or delivery. I know in some cases this may be challenging. There are people that we may prefer not to interact with, who we find difficult to build a relationship with, and thus, when feedback is provided we may listen, but not truly hear the message. Likewise, poorly delivered feedback can leave us feeling unreceptive. Consider that all feedback, regardless of source or delivery, is an opportunity to potentially better yourself. Shutting down feedback is shutting down your own development. So accept the gift, consider it objectively and appreciate the data provided. Try not to ignore the data due to the source it originates from, or the way it was delivered.
Tip: If we feel we need more data to truly understand feedback provided, and can ask without making the other person feel as though we are pushing back or challenging their perspective, some well crafted questions can be useful. So if someone says, “I think your presentation was sorely lacking.”, there isn’t much substance there to understand what you said or did that missed the mark for this person. You could say, “Thank you for the feedback.” (This must be a genuine “thank you”, not a snarky one, tone matters.) Could you help me understand what I said or did that was ineffective?” or “I appreciate you taking the time to share your perspective with me. Can you help me understand what I could have said or done differently that you would have found more effective?”
The goal is to help them give you specific information that will help you understand what you could consider.
4: Ask for feedback. Giving feedback can be hard. In order to create a culture where feedback can and does flow freely, it can be important to ask for feedback rather than just waiting for it. Whether it is from peers, leaders, or direct reports – ask people for feedback after you have interacted with them. Whether you gave a presentation, spoke at a meeting, or just had a conversation with someone. Follow up (soon after) and ask for their feedback and perspectives. “What was your reaction to my presentation at the project debrief meeting this morning?” “How did my announcement in the staff meeting yesterday afternoon land on you?” “What did you find ineffective and/or effective in the report I sent out on Tuesday regarding culture growth?”
5: Be thankful and gracious. This is true for both positive and constructive feedback. Feedback is invaluable and something we should be genuinely grateful for. Do not make the mistake of defending your perspectives or challenging theirs. As mentioned above, tone matters. A snarky “thank you” will not land well or have a positive impact. If you value the opportunity others give you when they open up blind spots for you through their feedback, make sure they want to come back to you again. Be humble and be gracious, simply and genuinely say, “thank you for that feedback.”