Have you ever received feedback that really stung? Have you resented people who gave you their unsolicited opinion? Have you ever been hopping mad about a comment someone made about you? So, how to receive feedback the right way.
I can only imagine that this Tweet from Elon Musk rubbed Jeff Bezos the wrong way. Or did it?
All of us have faced situations where we received others’ opinions that linger in our minds and that have made us steam internally. I received feedback from a teacher decades ago who thought I would never be able to fulfill my dream of going to university in the United States, at a time when that was indeed highly unlikely. So, how to receive feedback gracefully?
React or Respond?
You can’t change what others think or say about you to your face or behind your back. But you can change how you respond. Do you take it personally and retreat into a shell? Or do you accept the feedback as a challenge and let it motivate you to go against perception and defy the odds of success? It’s your choice.
Feedback given by others is less a commentary about you than it is about them. Let’s face it, feedback is an opinion the other person(s) hold(s) that is conveyed to you. It’s not the truth. It is a perception. A commonly held myth is that perception is reality. Well, someone else’s perception is their reality. But it doesn’t have to be yours. So, how do you best respond?
1) Appreciate it
Regardless if you agree or disagree with the feedback, the other person has taken time and effort to provide it. So, the appropriate response is always: Thank you!
2) Don’t take it personally
You don’t know what the intention of the feedback provider is: Do they care? Do they want to tear you down? Do they want to challenge you (see the Tweet above)? Whatever you do, avoid taking it personally and allowing it to hurt you. If you do, you are your own worst enemy. Always assume the best intention. Even if you are not sure.
3) Reflect on the feedback
Could there be some truth to what you are hearing? What is the possibility of an opportunity for growth here? Try on what it would take to actually run with it and make some adjustments.
4) Solicit coaching from the feedback provider
You don’t have to agree with the person offering the feedback. But there is a reason why they said what they said. What prompted them to say that? What is the reason behind their comment? What suggestions do they have for you to personally grow in this area? Is it based on hearsay? Or is there some valid evidence? Solicit help to grow.
5) Set a goal to improve
The feedback provider most likely has some suggestions how to tackle the issue. You don’t have to do it their way, but hear them out because they might have some good ideas. Agree to work on the topic and ask them to hold you accountable to what you are setting out to do. Give yourself a time limit of 30, 60 or 90 days to accomplish what you are committing to.
A word about this. Often feedback is given in the form of a challenge or even a dare: “I bet you will never be able to do x.” I have come across countless executives whose younger selves were told they can’t or won’t succeed with something. Often those challenges go so deep that they become the foundations of passions.
How many girls have been told that they are not good in math and become scientists, engineers, or researchers? How many are told they can’t succeed in a certain field because they don’t have what it takes and then they surprise themselves and others by going way above the expectations? How many are told they can’t — and then they do!
So, don’t dismiss, but instead accept challenges. They are often what success is built on.
As you are coaching your team members, don’t forget to challenge them, not dismissively, but supportively. However unlikely it might be, what if they could actually accomplish this?
What if you could?