How can I take feedback well?

By Derrick Teoh
OD Partner
derrick@pace-od.com

At some point in our careers, we would have received feedback on our performance, be it positive or negative. I believe most of us don’t have a problem with receiving positive feedback, but being able to handle negative feedback well is a rather different story. I find that most (if not all) of us has at some point found it a real struggle to even agree with what we are being told.

Undoubtedly, the ability to handle feedback well is a crucial skill that needs to be honed. In that split second of receiving negative feedback, we often get upset or angry with the person giving the feedback, as well as disappointed with ourselves for not making the cut.

When we hear negative feedback, it is all too natural for us as humans to automatically perceive it as an attack—a threat to our self-esteem—because the voices in our heads start screaming: I’m not good enough. I’m a failure. I will never succeed in this job.

PAUSE. HOLD. 

While we do have this natural tendency to react (or even overreact) negatively to such feedback, we are not confined to our instinctive responses. We don’t have to feel bad about ourselves or hold grudges against the person giving us the feedback. Remember, feedback is necessary for growth, which is often a painful process.

So the next time you receive negative feedback, hold the thoughts and feelings that may have gone haywire and remind yourself that this experience is only going to build you up if you take it the right way. Here are three tips I personally find helpful when dealing with negative feedback.

1. Remember the benefit of receiving feedback

Always keep in mind that all feedback is for YOUR benefit. Don’t assume the person giving you feedback is out to get you. Look at the big picture, ultimately, feedback is for our growth.

2. Listen to understand and see things from their perspective.

Most of the time, we are too eager to defend our stand or “correct” the other person so that we could move right along. However, it is important that we slow down and listen to understand what the other person is trying to say before reacting. Stand in their shoes and remember they’re actually doing you a favour by providing honest feedback.

3. Ask questions to seek clarity.

As much as we dislike to drag the conversation further, it is important that we ask questions to clarify. Instead of rushing to get the conversation over and done with, take time to ask questions to better understand the areas that need improvement and how you might do so.

Not sure how to handle negative feedback? Please comment or write in to me at connect@pace-od.com, I'd love to hear from you!