How to receive feedback (and like it, too)

Receive feedback with more grace, gratitude and guts.

We don’t choose the feedback we get, but we always control where it goes. Easier said than done, right? After years of helping organizations around the world receive and achieve feedback without fear, I’ve settled on a few principles and practices that can help. Some are directed at others. Others are pointed at ourselves.

Questions to ask yourself:

Before responding to negative feedback, impose a cool-down period and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this feedback personal? (Internal vs. external causes)
  • Is this feedback permanent? (Infrequent vs. ever-present conditions)
  • Is this feedback pervasive? (Isolated vs. widespread cases)

These questions can help you separate facts from feelings, distinguish fixed conditions from fluid circumstances, and identify where and when the feedback applies. Doing this self-check can help you set the record straight on the critical feedback you receive.

Questions to ask the giver:

Once you’ve done some inner tuning, you’re ready to engage the giver with actions that foster gratitude, grace and grit:

  • Be courteous: Thank the person for giving you feedback — even if you don’t like it.
  • Be curious: Clarify the feedback — when and where is this happening?
  • Be contrite: Apologize — don’t be too proud to say you’re sorry for what’s happened.
  • Be constructive: Ask for advice — show that you want to move forward and improve.

These steps communicate your strength of character and seriousness of purpose. Not only will you be seen more credibly by others, but you’ll deepen your capacity for humility, curiosity and self-awareness — turning negative feedback into a positive force.

Actions to take with others:

We rarely get better all by ourselves. As a final step, widen the feedback loop by seeking insight and input from a trusted colleague, family member or friend:

  • Ask for a “second story” to get an alternative perspective
  • Develop a coping strategy or plan of execution
  • Create an accountability plan focused on goals and growth

Getting an outsider’s perspective can provide much-needed distance and details that enable you to find the signal in the noise. Know who your “mirror holders” are — ultimately, they are the ones who will help you discover the joy of getting feedback.

Keep this playbook handy the next time you get some tough news — you may come to accept it with more grace, grit, and even a bit of gratitude. Feedback should leave us feeling renewed and restored, not defeated and depleted. When we tune our emotions, show our best intentions, and enlist the support of others, getting negative feedback may turn out to be more positive than we think.

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