Strategies for receiving feedback
These suggestions apply to feedback that you have invited and also to feedback that is offered uninvited.
- If the feedback is coming to you unsolicited: treat the feedback as information that you would have invited, if you had been aware that the person wanted to offer it! That way you can approach your response to the feedback with more of a sense of control and acceptance.
- If the feedback is offered after you have asked for it and it causes you to feel reactive or defensive: treat the feedback as an opportunity to find out more. Invite some specific detail. That way you can begin a conversation about the behaviour or the situation rather than getting distracted by your own feelings.
- Try not to get overly distracted by the way the person gives you the feedback. Most people find giving feedback difficult and they rarely do it in an elegant way or sophisticated way. They may not have intended to deliver the feedback in the way that leaves you feeling uncomfortable. Try to keep in mind that fact that most feedback is actually offered because the person values their relationship with you and the feedback is motivated by a desire to assist or change the relationship or your understanding of them or a situation. For example, feedback offered in a learning or work context.
- Think about what you are hearing. Try to take a ‘helicopter view’ and identify the theme or themes in the feedback. Try to focus on a number of aspects of the feedback and try to identify what is important in the feedback from the other person's point of view. This will help you from getting caught in the not so easy to handle aspects of the feedback.
- Ask yourself "What is the context of the feedback?" Try to understand what aspects of the feedback are closely related to the how, when and where of a specific situation.
- Identify the basic feelings embedded in the feedback (frustration, disappointment, irritation etc.) and try not to over-analyse the content of the feedback. Going over and over the feedback in your own mind will not help you understand why the person felt or thought that way.
- Recognise the feeling of "ouch" but don’t spend too much time indulging a feeling of outrage by thinking thoughts like "how dare they…" or "they must think I'm so awful…". Telling the other person they are out of order won’t help the relationship, but letting them know what you understand of their message to you might help you both get to a more comfortable conversational level.
- Take self-initiated action to learn from and address the theme of the criticism.
- Help yourself to be honest and identify what aspects of the feedback you think might have some 'truth' to them even if it is a bit (or even very) uncomfortable.
- Have a go at finding some humour in the way you initially reacted to the feedback and if you can’t laugh at yourself at least have a little smile.