We read so many articles on a day to day basis teaching us how to give feedback, but I have not read one article that clearly explains how to receive it. If you’re anything like me, then you know what it feels like to internalize feedback. When I have received constructive feedback in the past, it has made me want to jump up and say, ‘what do you mean I’m not perfect?’
We all know that we aren’t exactly perfect, but we don’t like when it’s pointed out to us. I learnt this the hard way early on in my career (cue lots of tears and internalization later). In light of this, I have put together some useful tips that will hopefully help others to receive feedback in a positive, encouraging way.
Always consider the source: I am very selective about who I take constructive feedback from. I don’t just listen to anyone, and the relationship we have is very important. Some questions you need to ask yourself are:
Who is delivering this feedback? Are they close to you? Are they close to your work? Are they in a position where the feedback is warranted?
Do I trust this person? Trust is a huge factor when it comes to receiving constructive feedback. If you do not trust the person, then it is unlikely that you will take this advice onboard.
Is this person giving tangible feedback? Some people are quick to criticize without offering any actionable advice. It’s really important that any negative feedback is followed by a suggestion on how to improve.
These questions will help you to understand the reasons for criticism so that you can decide how best to respond.
This leads me to my next point.
Is the feedback you’re receiving actionable?
This is important because people almost always have your best interests at heart when giving feedback. They recognise your potential and want you to develop and excel in your field. Make sure that you don’t allow someone to give negative criticism without also offering constructive advice. Always ask what actions you can take to improve.
Is this something that you’ve heard before?
Something I have been told time and time again during my career is how important it is to pay attention to the finer details. I am a big picture person so when it is time to get down into the weeds, I would rather not go there (insert laugh here). In my role, however, paying attention to detail is critical. Therefore, when I am told that I need to focus on this, it doesn’t feel unsolicited. In general, feedback should never feel too surprising. If you receive new or unexpected feedback (especially mid-career), you may need to think more carefully about it. Always analyze the situation to understand whether it is something you are already aware of or not.
Is the feedback a two-way conversation?
Is the person giving you feedback also open to receiving it? It should always be a two-way conversation. Whenever I receive feedback, I always ask, “Is there anything that I could be doing better?” This helps to build a better relationship and assures whoever is on the receiving end that you are also open to criticism.
A final, important point before I close is to never, ever internalize feedback. When we do this, we lose confidence and often enthusiasm for the work that we love. Feedback should help us to grow and get better at what we do. Receiving constructive commentary, whether it's positive or negative, is a good thing because it demonstrates that your peers are invested in your future and they want to help you to reach your goals.