When was the last time you received feedback?  How did you respond?

We are constantly receiving feedback.  Whether it is explicit through verbal or written communication, or more hidden feedback through gestures or tone of voice, people are always giving you some sort of review on your behavior.

It’s easy to take some feedback personally or not fully listen to what you are hearing.  However, feedback can also be an extremely useful tool for growth, goals, and change.  Especially because not all feedback is professional feedback (although that’s what most people typically think of).  We receive feedback from our family, friends, partners, and even social media followers ALL the time on EVERYTHING, even when it’s unsolicited.

We have all heard the expression “two heads are better than one” therefore, why not at least hear other people out to see if their feedback could strengthen you and your ideas?

Some ways to effectively hear feedback include:

Really listen.  Actively listening can mean not interrupting or making assumptions on what someone will say.  Truly be tuned in and hear what information is being conveyed.  If you are sitting there focusing on what your response will be or getting defensive, it will make it hard to grow from what others are saying.

Be aware of your response.  Always respond with appreciation and kindness.  Even if you disagree, there is a calm, polite way to do so.  Your body language and tone of voice also matter, and sometimes matter more than the words you say.  If you are receiving feedback and look disinterested or distracted or bored, people are likely going to stop giving you reviews, either positive or negative.

Be open.  There is usually more than one way to do things.  Being open to hearing how someone else would do things can help you learn and grow.  Even if you are just learning what someone else’s point of view is, it is still important and could be worthwhile.

Make sure you understand.  You are always allowed to ask questions for clarification.  Before responding to someone’s feedback, you should be certain you fully understand what has been said to you.  You can also practice active listening: repeat back key words and phrases, or ask specific questions on what others are saying.

Follow-up.  Sometimes with feedback, follow-up can just be implementing a suggested change.  Other times however, you may need to set up a follow-up meeting to discuss the feedback or present changes.

It can be important to remember that not all professional feedback is a true performance review or even a sign of failure.  Feedback is more talking in an informal way about what happens on a daily basis and likely won’t have a huge impact on your overall level or salary at a company.

Feedback can sometimes feel like a true fight or flight experience.  Our brains are wired to protect us, even from criticism or perceived criticism.  No matter what we do, or how we do it, at some point, we will receive feedback.  Sometimes these moments can be really tough and sometimes they can be entirely helpful.  We can miss out on so much by not listening to feedback.

Why is feedback so hard to hear sometimes?  According to Charles Jacobs, author of Management Rewired: Why Feedback Doesn’t Work, when we hear information that conflicts with our self-image, our instinct is to first change the information, rather than ourselves. While you don’t always have to change yourself or your work in response to feedback, it is important to respectfully listen, as mentioned in the tips for receiving feedback above.

This can be true for professional or personal feedback.  Most people have an inherent desire to be liked by others.  We want those closest to us to be proud of us or appreciate our work.

Criticism can also be hard to forget.  Clifford Nass, a professor at Stanford University says, “almost everyone remembers negative things more strongly and, in more detail,” than positive things or feedback.  This perpetuates a phenomenon called negativity bias: Our brains have evolved separate, more sensitive brain circuits to handle negative information and events, and they process the bad stuff more thoroughly than positive things. That means receiving criticism will always have a greater impact than receiving praise.

If you ever feel the need to seek feedback, that is a very proactive, healthy thing to do.  When you are in the right headspace, and have prepared yourself to truly listen and be receptive to feedback, here are some questions you can ask others to take initiative on getting a review:

  • If you had to make 2 suggestions on my performance, what would they be?
  • How could I handle my projects more effectively?
  • When should I involve others in my decision making?
  • How could I prioritize better?

These are questions that you can ask professionally or personally.  Getting feedback personally is just as important as getting it professionally.  It is good to have honest feedback-driven discussions with roommates, family members, partners, friends, etc.  It can make cohabitation more peaceful and even make each member of the relationship happier.

A more modern, unique, and anonymous way to gather some feedback is to use social media.  You can do this on your personal page or business page.  Using Instagram stories to collect data through polls can help you learn about what your followers want or need, like or dislike, or think/feel about certain topics.  You can do this for silly personal things like what to make for dinner or what to wear one day, otherwise, you can use the method professionally to find out what your followers need from your business page or what they want to see more of.

It is important to remember that even negative feedback can have a positive impact on relationships or your career.  Having mature, respectful, constructive conversations can lead to a deeper understanding of others or improved performance at work.  As I said before, just because some feedback isn’t overly positive, does not mean you have failed.  Any opportunity for growth is an opportunity for success!

If you view feedback as a gift instead of something to dread, it will help you grow.  We all have blind spots when it comes to ourselves, be it personal or professional.  Having someone be kind enough to help us see those blind spots should really be seen as a blessing, even if it’s difficult to hear in the moment.  If you think of feedback as data, it is always better to have more data, more information, to learn and grow from.

With all that information and data, you can start to look for patterns in the feedback you receive.  If you hear feedback that seems to be out of left field, or totally unique from things you’ve heard before, it may just be off target.  However, if you start to hear similar feedback on several occasions, it may be time to take a close look at what is being conveyed.  Patterns can be difficult for us to see, painful or sensitive.  Try to focus on what is really being said and what information the person delivering feedback actually has.  Tone of voice and body language can hinder actually listening to the root of the feedback, so be sure to ask those important questions to be sure you totally understand.

It is important to develop meaningful relationships both personally and professionally.  Giving and receiving feedback is just part of those relationships.  If we can look at feedback as a gift and a chance for opportunity and growth instead of something to dread or fear, it can help us advance with ourselves and with others.

When was the last time you received feedback, and how did it go? How did it make you feel? And, what was the result of that feedback? I look forward to hearing from you!