I am surprised at how many people hate feedback, whether it centres on performance, personality, character or behaviour issues. There seems to be a fear that the one giving the feedback does not have your best interests at heart and that the feedback will be detrimental, rather than uplifting, in terms of your growth and development. This may be warranted in certain circumstances, where one walks out of a meeting feeling criticised and put down, but generally, feedback is given to accelerate the development of an individual. The professional athlete craves such feedback from the coach — any feedback that could assist one in becoming better and raising one’s performance is welcomed with both arms. The feedback, in this instance, is critical to develop one’s expertise and to help one win. It should be similar in the workplace.
Perhaps the approach to receiving feedback, especially to give one a sense of some control, should include some or all of the following elements:
- Concentrate on the content, not on the communicator — commence the session from the position that the feedback-giver has positive intent. This allows you to be free to be objective and to attempt to discover any truth in what you are hearing.
- Determine to listen openly, calmly and attentively — relaxing is key here, so breathe deeply. Listen carefully and tune in fully — many bosses don’t feel listened to and this irritates them. Your willingness to listen fully may be encouraging to the superior.
- Monitor your own feelings — any negative reactions need to be kept in check. You don’t want to get all emotional and miss any important information that may help your growth.
- Request examples of or clarification of issues — this is not a time for political gamesmanship, but rather a moment to understand another’s point of view. Ask clarifying questions and do so in a non-defensive manner (e.g. “May I ask you for an example of when I ….. in order that I can understand what you are speaking about?”).
- Show an understanding of the feedback-giver’s comments, even if you don’t agree with his or her interpretation — demonstrate your openness and willingness to engage in mutual problem-solving and show an understanding of common goals and objectives.
- Stay away from defence mechanisms and excuses — create space to ensure that you are not being defensive, even if you consider yourself to be in the right. You may be missing something.
- Express gratitude for the feedback — be genuinely grateful and change behaviour as and when necessary.
Receiving feedback can be hugely beneficial if one accepts the same as developmental and uplifting. Attempts at being defensive usually invoke negative responses and causes distrust. Accept feedback willingly and use all information gathered as a means to stimulate growth. We need to receive feedback as a special gift.