Ideas for happier feedback

In my role at work, I often have the chance to hear senior leaders reflect on what has helped make them successful.  They always name their ability to learn from feedback as essential to their long term growth.
But for some reason, whenever anyone gives me feedback, it doesn’t seem to be so helpful.  People tend to share criticisms of my actions that don’t make sense given the situation I was facing.  Or things that other people should really be fixing about themselves.
Okay – that was sarcasm.  It sounds ridiculous when I write it down, but most people can relate to those feelings.  Feedback can be embarrassing, gut-wrenching, or confusing to receive.  And the important feedback is most likely to take us by surprise and make us feel defensive.
So many options for how you choose to experience feedback

Of course, the right response to feedback is always gratitude.  But, often I find myself trying to evaluate the validity of the feedback as I’m receiving it.   This comes off as unreceptive and stubborn.

So here are a few ideas I’ve been trying lately to help.
  • Take other perspectives.  At work, I did an exercise with a group where we chose different words to explain how we experience feedback.  Each group then talked about ways their perspective both helped and hindered them.  We then discussed how the people to whom we give feedback experience those moments.  But, for me, simply understanding that there are range of possible perspectives was incredibly helpful.
  • “The Shelf.”  When you receive feedback, you can choose not to act on it immediately.  Instead, imagine noticing it and putting it on a shelf.  If you never receive that feedback again, you can choose not to make a change.  But, if you hear that same piece of advice repeatedly, you can revisit that decision when you’re ready to address it.
  • Ask a few questions Instead of trying to assess the validity of feedback in the moment, focus on really understanding what your friend is saying.  You can ask clarifying questions, ask for an example, or ask for a recommendation on a better approach.  This will keep you from trying to evaluate what you’re hearing as right or wrong, and instead focus your mind on listening.
  • Send a thank you note: Because feedback can be stressful, most of us don’t handle it as well in the moment as we’d like.  Writing to express gratitude encourages continued feedback, but also shows that you take seriously the insights that were shared.
Here’s the advice of other leaders I respect on feedback.
Have a great day, and stay encouraged!







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