Top Ten Tips on...

Receiving Feedback

3 April 2023
Effective Top Tens - Podcast
Quick, practical tips on a wide range of management and personal development themes.
The other end of feedback…all feedback is useful, if you know how to use it. This podcast will help you make the best of any feedback you receive…

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Always say thank you

Acknowledge the feedback and the feedback giver; that's to encourage you to continue to get feedback, because when you get feedback it gives you choice. You get some additional information about you, your performance, the way you are presenting yourself, and you can then decide what to do about it. You can take the feedback seriously and decide to take some action based on that feedback. Or you can choose to ignore it, put it in the bin. The point is getting feedback gives you a choice, which you can make decisions about. If you don't get feedback, you don't get that choice.


Avoid defending or justifying

If you respond in a defensive or aggressive way, it will probably discourage the feedback giver from continuing to give you feedback. Whilst that might seem initially attractive if the feedback is in any way critical, it actually reinforces tip number one, that it's more likely to lead to the giver stopping, giving up feedback that might be helpful. So don't justify, don't defend. don't explain: just take the feedback as it is.


Ask for clarity

It is OK to ask for an example, to give more substance or body to the feedback. This is not challenging the feedback; it's just being clear, getting more specific information to help you understand better. This is crucial if the feedback is vague.


Don't reciprocate or fob it off

If the feedback is positive, don't feel the need to reciprocate or equalise with something positive in return. It can devalue the feedback because it's almost a game, you know, they've given you a compliment, so you have to give them a compliment in return. You feel you have to equalise the feedback, but there is no need, and the other person doesn’t expect it – they aren’t fishing for their own compliment. Just accepted as a gift, something, pleasant and helpful, and don't feel the need to reciprocate or pay it back.

Equally don't brush it aside. Don't put yourself or the feedback down, by for example saying “oh, it's nothing”, or “I was just doing my job”. That may well be your natural humility and your discomfort with being complimented. But if somebody genuinely wants to give you credit and they see that in doing so it's making you uncomfortable, they may be reluctant to make you uncomfortable again….

So don't make it difficult for the feedback giver.


Seek corroboration if necessary

If you are unsure how valid the feedback is, then by all means seek corroboration from another party, go to somebody whose views you can trust. Maybe you need to explain that you want some honest feedback, explain that you've already had some feedback and see if you can get somebody else's second opinion.


Recognise responsive feedback

Keep your eyes and ears open, because we get feedback all the time. Feedback doesn't have to be direct and verbal. I do a lot of teaching and you can usually tell if the class are engaged or attentive or not: that's feedback. So keep your eyes and ears open because other people's behaviour will give you some indication of how you're doing.


Acknowledge helpful feedback

If you've had some critical feedback and have thought about it, got over your initial discomfort and decided that the feedback has been helpful, then go back to that person and thank them. Because the person who gives you critical feedback may have felt they were taking a risk, but they felt it – you – were worth the effort. This isn’t the reciprocity we discussed earlier. This takes place after some initial discomfort has given way to appreciation.


Validate the feedback with action

The best way to show that the feedback you've been given is valid is to act upon it. If, for example, somebody has given you feedback that you interrupt rather than letting people finish, so it's helpful to let them finish. If you think that's a really valid piece of feedback, make sure you don't interrupt next time. They'll notice it. And you'll notice that you were doing it. Both of you should feel good from that point of view. So put the feedback into action as the best way of showing that you've valued the feedback.


Habits will be difficult to change

If the feedback you've been given requires you to change your habit, then accept that this may take time. Find a way of replacing an unhelpful habit with one that's more positive and helpful, but be aware that if the feedback has been about a routine or a practice that you have been doing for some time, then that's pretty embedded. So your intent may be to move forward with the feedback, but the habit may still pull you back.


Be aware of inauthentic feedback

Some feedback you get may just not be authentic. It may not be well intentioned. And it's not always easy to tell whether it is or isn't, but there are two main types of inauthentic feedback: firstly critical feedback that is not intended to help, but intended to damage you - to make you feel small or inadequate, frustrated or even angry. And of course you would deal with that kind of feedback in a different way.

And secondly, almost as an opposite to that, the other kind of inauthentic feedback is feedback designed to simply flatter you. That's simply an attempt to manipulate your feelings into something more positive, mainly towards the feedback giver, rather than about the nature of the feedback itself. So be aware of two extremes of inauthentic feedback.

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