Many of us may be good at giving feedback but struggle to receive it.


Often it is because we do not understand it; it is too vague. For example, feedback such as: ‘You’re not aggressive enough’, ‘You’re not a team player’. This might mean something to the person giving it but has no clear meaning to the person receiving it.

Receiving feedback is a skill.

One problem is that we train people to give feedback, through reports and records, but we don’t train people to receive it. It is like training quarterbacks to become better at throwing the ball without training players to catch the ball.

We can’t let our own success, education and advancement affect the way we receive feedback. We have to learn from everyone around us. Our individual success depends on it and so does the collective success of our organization.

We need to overcome strong prejudices or emotional feelings and perhaps anger that the person giving us the feedback is treating us unfairly, even if the feedback makes perfect sense. It puts a premium on the ability to receive feedback well and talk skillfully about challenging topics. Learning about ourselves can be painful, but we should ask, ‘When you say I’m not aggressive enough, what does that mean? What’s an example, and what could I do differently?’

Once we understand the feedback, the next step is to figure out how to act on it.

We all know that many times we have decided to take the feedback, and then don’t act on it. This may relate to ‘ruts’, habits or addictions that are hard to break. What helps is to make a public commitment to change. Get a friend or a team to do it with you. And be aware of the J-curve of happiness: the downward slide to begin with is not easy until you bottom out and head back up.

Once we begin to get positive responses and reinforcement, feedback is easier to receive.


Source: Thanks for the Feedback, Douglas Stone.