How to receive feedback👂
You would have probably heard the phrase- Feedback is a gift, many a time. Hopefully, a gift wrapped with the optimism to make us better and sealed with praises. But, most people that I know have negative emotions associated with it. Isn’t it surprising that something which can help us become a better version of ourselves is considered dreadful?
Do we dread it because most of the people don’t know how to give feedback or could it be that we don’t know how to take it well? I would say, maybe, both.
You could find a milky way full of information on how to give feedback that helps. But hardly any on how to receive it well.
Our typical reaction to the positive feedback is to receive it with awkward silences, or shrugging it off in a haste.
And don’t even get me started on receiving constructive feedback. It starts with “What! Are you talking to me?”, denial, thinking the feedback is about the not-so-bright twin who got separated at Kumbh-ka-Mela or sometimes a vague acceptance of our flaws.
I say take it on the chin.
Okay, I lie. Not all of it. Some of the feedback is biased and you could get better in detecting signal to noise ratio while receiving it.
Want to learn that art of receiving feedback well? Here are some ways in which you can receive feedback, good or bad, and use it to your advantage to become a better version of yourself-
1. Assume positive intent
Even when you don’t like your feedback, assume the person giving it has positive intentions behind it. At times, you may feel wronged by the feedback targeted at you.
For instance, if your feedback says that you lack managerial skills, the hidden positive intent might be that your team looks up to you as a great leader. So they want you to work on those skills to take up that role in future.
So, consciously choose positive intent. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Try to see it from a different perspective and get the bigger picture. In Stephen Covey’s words- “Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply.”
Even Indira Nooyi, CEO Pepsico, believes that ‘assuming positive intent’ is the most important leadership lesson that she has learned. If I was to quote her-
“You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different. When you assume negative intent, you’re angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed. Your emotional quotient goes up because you are no longer almost random in your response. You don’t get defensive. You don’t scream. You are trying to understand and listen because at your basic core you are saying, maybe they are saying something to me that I’m not hearing.”
2.Become aware of your first reaction
Imagine that you just delivered an amazing presentation. Everyone applauded you. And then someone from the crowd walks up to you and says- “You were fabulous. But..can I give you a little feedback?”
There are high chances you will perceive this sentence as-
“Can I give you a little negative feedback?”
You will immediately become defensive because a) you don’t know the person, b) it takes guts to accept your mistakes in front of a stranger. The word Feedback generates anxiety and fear in us. Human behavior is to rebuke, refuse and retaliate in case the feedback is negative.
To tackle this, the first thing that you need to do is to listen without planning a response. Silence the critical voices in your head and just LISTEN. Really. At least try. Allow the person in front of you to finish with their part of the story. Show that you are open to the feedback by nodding and keeping yourself calm.
3. Ask for clarifications
The hypocrisy of human mind is that we accept praises thinking that we deserve it. But we never question our faults. If you did not like your feedback, ask thewhy behind it. Before you disagree with the person and want to dissuade them from their opinion, first ask for clarifications.
Ask a lot of questions and ask the feedback provider if he/she can share some examples that illustrate the feedback. Questions like: “It would really help me improve if you could quote an instance where I <insert reason>….” or “I would like us to be on the same page. Are you saying that you feel <feedback point here>”
4. Ask for time to act upon them
“Thank you for your feedback. I’m definitely going to give it a thought. Although I disagree in some places but there is a chance that I am biased. Do you mind if I get back to you by X date?”
Oh good lord, the grace and dignity. Hi-five! You managed to keep both of them alive. On a lighter note, if you disagree with your feedback, asking for time to come back on it helps you in engaging in a productive dialogue with your feedback provider.
5. Appreciate their time
Even when you don’t like what they are saying. Even when you have made up your mind to ignore them. Or even when you really disagree because it’s hurting or insulting. Expressing appreciation is harmless. It doesn’t mean that you agree with what the person has to say.
Remember that people took out time out of their busy schedule to review you. So feedback is a necessity as well as a favor that you are asking for. So when people take time out of busy schedules to think about you, show that you really appreciate the effort.
Hopefully, by this time, you understand why receiving feedback is as important as giving feedback. I would be interested in knowing about your experiences (good or bad) with feedback (giving or receiving) or practices that you follow at work. Let’s talk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More power to you.
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