Feedback can be a valuable tool in personal and professional development. The opinions of others can give you insight into your own behavior that you may not know or find out on your own. Although it is very useful, sometimes feedback can be difficult to hear, especially if it has not been requested, or an opinion you do not agree with. Whether it comes from a co-worker or a friend, it is important to receive the feedback with composure. A hostile response may damage the relationship. If the intentions are sincere, you want to respond in a way that shows appreciation and that does not harm the relationship.
#1 Differentiate Feedback from Criticism
Feedback is not criticism. Feedback can include comments that are positive, and comments that encourage improvement. Criticism on the other hand has a negative connotation. It is a judgment about what someone else thinks is wrong. When someone does give you feedback, know it is not a judgment, simply a suggestion on what you have done well and where you can improve. If you are criticized, the appropriate responses for feedback do not apply. The criticism may be intended for your benefit, it does not necessarily promote improvement.
When listening to feedback, be sure to take in the content of what the person is saying. There is no need to think about why this person is sharing with you, as you know the purpose of feedback is to support your development. Listening with that mindset can give you the opportunity to truly hear what the person is saying, and can keep you from judging the information before you hear it. Listening does not mean agreeing, it just means you are actively taking in the information.
Once you have made the distinction between the feedback and criticism, you must trust the other person. Trust that they are not insulting or attacking you, and they are only trying to help. You have the choice to disagree, but if you do not trust the person, and you receive feedback you do not like, you may react inappropriately, which can hurt the relationship. This can be may be more difficult with someone you may not have a close relation with. If you have verified it is feedback and not criticism, you can trust the purpose of the feedback even if you do not completely know the person.
#4 Be Gracious
Always show gratitude for the feedback. The giver has taken the time to think about how you can improve and has decided to share with you. They should be thanked for their efforts. If you do not agree, still thank them, regardless of what they say. They have your best interests in mind.
#5 Stay Open
Being the receiver of feedback gives you an opportunity to learn new things about yourself. If you are not open to the idea that there may be things about yourself you do not know, you may miss the opportunity to grow as a person. Learning new things about yourself is an inevitable part of personal development, and being open to feedback can accelerate the process.
#6 Be Honest with Yourself
Discovering new things about yourself can be a smooth process if you are already honest with yourself about who you are. With this level of understanding in yourself, it will be easier to stay open to the feedback. You will be able to discern what is true and what is not, and take in new information without defensiveness.
Feedback is a tool that supports forward movement, and should be received with that in mind. It gives you a rare opportunity to see yourself as others do, and presents unknown insight. Responding properly can prevent any threats to a relationship and encourage more feedback, giving you more chances to grow.
Adam is a human resources professional and communication coach. His goal is to support individuals and organizations in achieving success by improving interpersonal skills, increasing confidence, and becoming highly effective in communication. With his experience and education in training, recruiting, and consulting, he has acquired a great understanding of social interaction, and uses this knowledge to help others build their skills.
Visit his weblog at www.coachadamyoung.com.