Giving feedback can be a difficult task. However, in some cases, receiving it can be far worse. You’re putting yourself on the line when you ask for feedback, and some people can be brutal in their honesty. It can be scary, but even the most difficult feedback can have real gems in it.
Maybe you’re lucky enough to work in a location where open, honest, and kind feedback is encouraged, and it’s not a big deal to receive it. Even in these situations, there’s ways you can get the most out of whatever feedback you receive.
- Read it from the giver’s point of view 👀
- Clear up assumptions, talk to the giver 🙋
- Have a growth mindset 🌱
- Ask for specific feedback 🎯
- Validate the feedback 👍
- Don’t let it get to your head 🤯
I define feedback in 5 Tips for Giving Great Feedback as such:
Note that in this article, I’m assuming “feedback” is given in a written statement, directly to yourself and your manager, as per Microsoft’s Perspectives tool.
When someone tells you something that fundamentally challenges who you are or how you work, it can be easy to get defensive. Consider the following:
“You never listen to the team, and always go off in your own direction. I wish you’d just slow down a bit and consider other people’s ideas for once!”
Wow, this is definitely harsh feedback. It doesn’t give you a chance to respond fairly, it’s hyperbolic, and it attacks you directly. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn from it.
The giver is clearly frustrated, but maybe a recent event has tipped them over the edge to give such sharp criticism. They may also have been grouchy about something else on the day they wrote the feedback. Don’t simply assume the giver just “complains about everyone” or that what they’ve said is clearly wrong.
In here is a helpful nugget — it seems the giver doesn’t feel you listen to them. It can be as simple as forgetting to thank someone for their suggestion in a meeting. The giver may actually feel you’re great at coming up with ideas, or implementing team suggestions.
Assuming good intent can help with reading feedback, but assumptions can only go so far. Assuming it wasn't anonymous, go and talk to the person who gave you the feedback, and see what they really meant. It’s easy to misread what someone has written, particularly when there’s nobody language or tone-of-voice to guide you.
If you think someone has said something unfair, or you can’t understand what they’re sharing, take the chance to talk tothem in person, using the feedback as a starting point. If you’re still reeling from something negative that was said however, consider giving it some time. Take a break,or sleep on it — then talk to the giver with a clear mind.
Receiving positive feedback about how well you’ve been doing is great. Receiving feedback that tells you what to improve on can be uncomfortable. This is something you should embrace. Take every piece of feedback you receive as a learning opportunity, even if you disagree with it — especially if you disagree with it.
Critical feedback was given to you for a good reason, and you should work with it to improve yourself. Having a growth mindset means accepting that you are not perfect as you are right now, but it is always possible to improve and grow as a person. It may seem like a corporate business term, but it can have a real impact on your relationships and career.
This one isn’t so useful after you’ve already received the feedback, but is certainly something you can do ahead of time. Say you’re a programmer asking someone you’ve been working with in marketing for feedback, they may think: “I don’t know anything about programming, I have nothing to say!”
State your expectations clearly. Ask them, “I’d like feedback on my ability to communicate how our features work to the marketing team.” or “Have there been situations it’s felt like I was difficult to work with?”
This gives both you and the giver clear points to talk about together. This can also come in handy when the only feedback you receive is generic, along the lines of “You’re doing fine.” You’ll never grow with feedback like this, so asking for specific areas of improvement makes it easier on the giver.
Giving good feedback can be difficult and take a long time to do. Whether you agree or not, genuinely thank the giver for their time and effort. If any point feels contentious, repeat it back to the giver in your own words, and make it clear you have heard what they wanted to say.
Throwing feedback over a wall and into a void, and never hearing anything back is demotivating. By making it clear you think the points made are valid and coming from a genuine place, (even if you don’t agree!) you continue to encourage open discussion within your team. Your teammates will be grateful for this.
This point applies to receiving good feedback as well as negative feedback. Receiving positive feedback about how well you’ve been doing is great, but when it’s all you get, you have nowhere to grow to! Take a step back to consider if maybe there’s some feedback people are afraid to give you. Help foster an open workplace where people aren’t afraid to tell you the truth.
Similarly, don’t let negative feedback get you down. If you’ve received a lot of critical feedback, you may feel like everyone’s against you. However, you wouldn’t receive that feedback if the giver didn’t think you were able to change and improve!
If you’re particularly concerned about a piece of feedback, talk to a peer or mentor, and ask for a second opinion or reading. This is also a great opportunity to talk with your manager, and create a plan for how you can improve yourself and the team.
With these tips, hopefully you can start creating a stronger culture of feedback in your own workplace. When everyone is open to comfortably giving and receiving feedback, teams are able to grow and work more effectively, and achieve greater success.
Note that receiving feedback well is only one part of the story. In order for your team to work best, people need to know how best to give feedback too. Please be sure to check out my matching article!
Have you got any other tips for receiving feedback? Have any of these points helped you, or do you disagree? Please share your thoughts in the comments, and clap if you’ve enjoyed this article 😊
I wrote this article after having been in a feedback-filled atmosphere for a few years, having read several guides, and taken some online courses in better communication.
I’ve also had many conversations with my colleagues directly, and also as part of our semi-regular lunchtime brown-bag sessions which relate to issues like communication in the workplace.
LinkedIn Learning has many videos on communication, and part of this came from the following:
I initially shared this information as a Twitter thread, but thought I could expand on it in this article.
Thanks to Charity Majors for a recent Twitter thread on feedback: