Receiving Feedback Sucks – How To Make It Work For You Instead

Receiving Feedback Sucks – How To Make It Work For You Instead

As a company, we just finished working through Brene Brown’s book Dare To Lead. This is probably one of the best books to help your company maintain and even improve the health of your company culture. As a Company, we have an all-hands meeting every Friday called Team Huddle. We use this meeting as a collaborative effort to grow ourselves by addressing pressing issues that affect our culture, and by developing softer skills to make each team members better. We do this through discussions on pressing topics, or by studying a book together, that is relevant to our current season as a business. A topic usually spans over a week or two; however, we managed to stay 8-weeks on Brene’s book.

Daring To Lead helped our management team by giving better feedback, but, more importantly, it helped all of us to be in a place to receive any feedback, regardless of how it was delivered.

One of the most challenging through-lines of our lives is that we are on the receiving end of feedback starting at birth: parents, teachers, clergy, coaches, professors, and then those thirty or forty years of bosses, managers, and colleagues. Giving good feedback is a skill, and some do it well. Others suck at it.

Regardless of how feedback is given, it is entirely in your hands whether the feedback will benefit you or whether you will end up feeling victimised. The truth is that no one likes receiving feedback; we might still tolerate good feedback, but unwanted feedback… this is where the rubber hits the road.

“No pain, no gain” – we have all been at the receiving end of this comment at some point in our working lives. Well, even if there are potential “gain”, it still uncomfortable to be subjected to criticism; accompanied by feelings of rejection, anxiety and worry. Receiving feedback can trigger a stress response from incoming judgement; this usually happens in a “power-over” situation from someone in authority, like your boss.  However, if you can become resilient to receiving feedback, you are in the power seat, even if the feedback is negative. Below is a list of steps that you can use to face the negative and positive feedback with a new set of eyes.

Mentally Preparing Yourself

We all know when the feedback is coming, whether it is after handing in your quarterly review or at the end of a project. It would be best if you prepared yourselves mentally. The best thing you can do when receiving feedback, whether you were prepared for it or whether it came unexpectedly, is never to take it personally. This does not make you less of a person. Have an open mindset, remember that positive intent is essential.

The person who is giving you the feedback is probably a member of your team. Their purpose is to identify ways in which they can assist you and make your work better. Think of it as them seeing your potential and wanting to grow you. Allow feedback into your personal environment and consider how a new look of perspective can change your work for the better, regardless of the way it was given to you. If you can manage to disconnect yourself from the potential emotions of resentment after receiving unwanted feedback, you can benefit from even unsolicited feedback. However, the moment you start feeling resentment towards the giver of the unwanted feedback, you give your power to grow away.

STOP – Breathe & Listen

All of us are guilty of this – when receiving critical feedback, our first reaction is to take offence by making it seem like it was a personal attack. You become defensive, stressed or anxious.  STOP, breathe and take a moment before you react. Listen carefully to what the feedback is that you are receiving. Process what has been said. Do not make the feedback an attack on your character.  The feedback is not necessarily an attack on you; it is mostly feedback on a specific issue, even if the feedback was slightly offensive. If you are a person that pursues personal growth and a better version of yourself, then any feedback can be your ally. Focus on the issue at hand, and do not make it about yourself. When the feedback is aimed at you, like in your monthly/quarterly review with your boss, see it as an opportunity to improve your skills and traits. Look at the discussion in small parts, not as a whole; take what you can to improve yourself and don’s step over the proverbial emotional line, where you make it out as an attack on your person.

Seek First To Understand First Before You Seek To Be Understood

Steven Covey, in the “7 Habits Of Highly Effective People”, describes the inherent inability of people to first seek to truly understand some else before you even start wanting them to understand you.

After receiving feedback, take time out to reflect on what was said, if need be, remove yourself from the environment that it took place in, and the emotions that go with it. Now try and put yourself in the shoes of the person giving the feedback, imagine yourself with their personality, flaws and concerns. In your imagination sit next to them rather than across from them. Put the problem in front of the two of you, rather than between the two of you.  If you still have questions and need some more dots connected, feel comfortable to request more information. Ask for examples or suggestions on how to can improve in areas that were identified as concerns.

I love how Brene Brown deals with potential unwanted feedback, she says: “Because of my core value of courage, I give myself permission to say “I need a break” or “The way you’re acting is keeping me from hearing what you’re saying. I get that you’re pissed, that’s okay, but we’re going to have to find a different way to do this because I’m just defending myself.” For me, that aligns with courage. Ask for more time; ask to circle back; ask them to say more. When you can walk out of a difficult feedback session and say “I stayed connected, I stayed courageous, I stayed authentic, I stayed curious,” then that itself is daring, and that in itself is a win.”

Being Grateful

This will be difficult at best, almost impossible at worst; especially when the way the feedback was given was done in a derogatory way.

Find a way to be grateful that your team leader took the time to review your work/ project. Time is precious to everyone. Have a positive outlook on it. They intend to see you grow… most of them anyway (the rest of them don’t deserve to be a leader). When a person gives you feedback, they see potential in you, and they care.

Now Make It Work For You

We all have a desire to become more and be the best at what we do. Feedback can get you there. You now have the feedback, what should you do next?

Feedback is useless if you do not take the time to address the issues raised. If you are not going to use all the feedback, that is your choice; just be able to honestly back up why you have chosen not to consider it. If you are emotional and miss the point entirely, well … then you need to consider if you deserve the leader and the company taking time to even give you the feedback that has the potential to make you better.

The Good The Bad And The Ugly

Not all feedback is useful. Some feedback could have malicious intentions. How do you deal with this:

  • Protect your values and stay within your integrity
  • Ignore it
  • Take it up with your manager
  • Never take it personally or allow even the slightest personal offence towards that person

If it is not worth your time, don’t give it any.