How to receive feedback

You could see feedback as a gift. You can take it, thank the giver and put it away never to be looked at again. Or…. You can take it, unwrap it and improve yourself with it. Look at feedback as a chance to learn. How? By listening well, ask for explanation and afterwards think what you will do with it.

Receiving feedback is difficult

Who receives feedback, has the tendency to fall into a defence mode. This is useless. You do not have to defend yourself. When feedback is given in the proper way, than the other expresses his or her feeling in the I-message: he indicates how he experienced your behaviour, not what you are doing wrong. You cannot disagree on this. You cannot influence the other’s feeling that was caused by your behaviour. You can consider changing your behaviour, so your behaviour is no longer provoking negative feelings. When you can and want to do something about it, you will increase happiness for both parties!

Rules of receiving feedback

Luckily there are some useful “rules” for receiving feedback. The most important condition is to be open for feedback. And you this by: 

  1. Active listening. When receiving feedback you are aided by listening actively. This means you show, both verbally and non-verbally, you pay attention to what your peer has to say. 
  2. Ask for explanation. If it is not entirely clear what the other means, ask for an explanation. Try to understand the feedback. Ask what exactly was meant and check if you understood the message correctly by Listening, Summarising and Quizzing (LSQ).
  3. Show appreciation. A golden rule is to thank the other for the information. It feels a bit weird, but if you see feedback as a chance to develop yourself it is not that bad: as the other is giving you information which can help you improve! In addition, he or she took the effort to give you feedback. Think for a second that is as difficult for the other to give feedback as for you to receive it. 
  4. Think about it. Do you receive feedback? Consider what you will do with it. Do you find the remarks deserved or not? Do you recognise what the other says? Can you do something with it? Do you want to change your behaviour? What are the consequences when you change your workstyle, will you work more slowly? Lastly, never defend yourself, it is better to ask what the wants and why.
  5. Do something with the feedback. Let the feedback giver know what you think of his or her remarks. When you decide you want to something with it, say so. 

Do you feel your emotions rise, ask for a time-out to recover. It is better to postpone a response, thank responding and defending yourself emotionally. Force yourself to understand the message. Afterwards you can decide if you will do something with it or not. Always see feedback as something to learn from and not as a personal attack or task.

A compliment is feedback as well

Negative feedback is the most difficult to receive. The 5 tips that were just given can help you out. But, a compliment is feedback as well. Positive feedback! A compliment tells you what the other undergoes nicely, what behaviour of you is experienced as valuable. Do you get a compliment? Show you appreciate the message and think about what the compliment means to you. And, regularly give a compliment back. Relationships become strong and you will trust each other more when you show appreciation. 

Start today! Be open for feedback you receive. The more you practice, the easier it gets.