3 Ways to Improve How You Receive Feedback at Work—Especially During Difficult Times
May 18, 2020
Feedback is an important tool to help us develop and grow. But it’s not always easy to receive feedback—especially now.
Many of us are already emotionally tapped with daily to-do lists that feel unmanageable and life and career goals that feel destabilized. In this state of mind, it can feel natural to take well-intended feedback as a personal attack or criticism.
But receiving feedback is an important part of personal and professional growth, whether we're getting feedback on a project or preparing for the annual performance review. This may be why 'giving and receiving feedback' was a top trending skill professionals were learning this month.
In Giving and Receiving Feedback, Gemma Leigh Roberts discusses how to take control of your response to feedback and use it constructively. Try these 5 tips to put feedback to work towards your personal and professional growth.
#1 Take a step back
If there’s a single kernel of wisdom that applies to every interaction in our lives, it’s this: don't rush in and react. We’ve all been there, and we know it doesn’t end well.
Taking a step back is especially important when someone is sharing feedback with you.
When we hear something we don't like or something counter to our own view, our ego can take over and make us think the information must be wrong—and maybe even offensive.
“The truth is, the other person may actually be providing some considerate, thoughtful, and useful feedback, but our ego has distorted the reality of the situation,” says Roberts.
If you can pause, it will give you a moment to process what you’re hearing and stay objective before responding.
You can also make the conscious choice to think about it later. If you’re feeling tired, overwhelmed, or upset, consider tabling the feedback. Let the other person know you’ve heard them, and you’ll need some time to process it.
#2 View the feedback as an objective bystander
Feedback is a great mechanism to help us learn from mistakes and pinpoint areas for improvement, but only if we look at it from a balanced perspective.
Don't fixate on the negative feedback, which may get you down and prevent you from using it constructively.
Don’t fixate on the positive either. “An overly positive view of yourself isn't realistic and may cause a blind spot,” says Roberts.
Instead, try to embody the perspective of an objective bystander. It can be challenging to do this in the moment, so take time to practice after the interaction, when you can process the conversation with some distance. Here’s how:
First answer the following questions from your perspective: Who was involved? What happened? How did you react? What were the outcomes?
Then answer them again, this time pretending you’re a reporter with no preconceived notion of the situation. How would you describe the situation now?
Notice where the disconnect is and that’s where you’ll find opportunities for a more balanced perspective.
#3 Ask multiple people for feedback
While one person’s perspective may be useful, it’s still an opinion—one way of seeing the situation—and doesn’t always provide an accurate picture.
For example, your idea of collaboration may come across as indecisiveness in your manager’s eyes. You thought you were being collaborative by asking multiple team members for input before making a decision, but your manager saw it as indecisive.
To get a more well-rounded view, ask a few different people for feedback in the same area. Then you can see if any patterns emerge.
“If a few people are saying the same thing, chances are that's an area which is a strong development opportunity for you,” says Roberts.
#4 Accept feedback with grace
Approach all feedback with appreciation. After all, someone has taken the time to consider how they can give you some helpful advice.
By showing up with gratitude, you’re already setting yourself up for success, ready to actively listen.
“When you receive feedback, always be gracious and grateful, whether you agree with the feedback or not,” says Roberts. You don’t have to use all the feedback you get, but you do need to thank the person for sharing their input.
#5 Take a forward focus
It’s useful to hear feedback on how you can improve upon past performance or behavior, but don’t dwell in the past.
The goal of feedback is self-improvement and growth, so use that information to change how you think, act, and approach situations moving forward.
Think about an upcoming situation when you can implement this feedback. Use that opportunity to consciously take action on the feedback you received and notice the difference. Did the project go more smoothly? Were your colleagues more receptive to your idea? Take note of the positive impact of that feedback.