Listening to Feedback
How to Be Receptive to Feedback
Feedback is a key part of growing both personally and professionally. Being receptive to feedback helps strengthen relationships with friends and family and can help you further develop your career. Despite all these benefits, criticism can be tough to take in. Becoming an active listener, deconstructing the feedback, responding appropriately, and following up on the feedback you receive will help you to become more receptive to feedback.
Actively Listening to Feedback
Make eye contact.When receiving feedback you should make eye contact with the person providing the feedback. Maintaining eye contact during your conversation will help build trust and create a more comfortable atmosphere for both parties.
- Try to maintain a neutral facial expression (which is different than a "blank" expression). Your eyebrows should be relaxed, you may have a slight smile on your face (if appropriate), and you can nod to show that you are engaged. Try to avoid looking hostile, upset, or like you are zoning out.
Maintain open body language.Standing with your arms crossed will make you appear defensive or not receptive to feedback. Instead use open body language to appear receptive to the feedback.
- Lean in toward the person who is providing the feedback.
- Keep your arms relaxed and open. Don't cross them!
- Refrain from crossing your legs.
Don’t interrupt.When someone is giving us feedback, it’s often second nature to interrupt the person before they’ve finished speaking — especially if the feedback is not positive. This prevents the person from completely conveying the feedback and hinders your understanding of what they are trying to say.
- When someone is speaking don't think about your response. Use all of your energy to listen.
- If you feel yourself getting ready to interrupt, gently bite your tongue to remind yourself that you need to listen fully to the feedback being given.
Summarize what you heard.It can be helpful to repeat the feedback after you receive it. This can clear up any misunderstandings you have about what is being said. Summarize what you feel are the key points.
- Try saying, "Thanks for your feedback, Angela. What I garnered from this is that I need to be more alert during staff meetings, correct?"
Responding to Feedback
Do not respond immediately.It’s important to wait a few moments before responding to feedback, especially if it’s negative. You may regret responding with anger or extreme emotion after fully listening to what the other person has to say.
- Try taking three deep breaths after receiving feedback. If you still feel emotionally charged, take a few more breaths before responding.
Don’t get defensive.In order to be receptive to feedback, it’s key that you are open and refrain from getting defensive. This, in part, means being open to opinions and ideas that may differ from your own. Instead of trying to justify your actions or blame someone or something else, carefully listen to what is being said.
- If your boss criticizes you for being late, don’t immediately launch into a defense about the challenges of getting the kids to school before work or the horrible traffic you encountered. Try saying, “I’m sorry I was late. I will make it a priority to be punctual from now on.”
- Other defensive reactions include accepting the feedback and then talking badly about the person behind their back or purposefully avoiding implementing the feedback out of spite. Being unresponsive to make the person uncomfortable, such as just staring and not answering their questions, is another example.
Ask questions.Before responding emotionally, it’s important to understand exactly what is being said to you. Asking for details allows the giver of feedback to clarify his or her criticisms, and provides you with a better understanding of what they are trying to convey.
- If your daughter tells you she doesn’t like your cooking, urge her to clarify. Try saying, “Ashley, I’m sorry you are unhappy with my cooking. What particular dishes do you dislike?”
- If your co-worker praises your presentation, you can say, “Thanks for your feedback, Joe. What did you think I did particularly well? How can I improve?”
Don’t take it personally.Understand that feedback is usually about actions and behaviors, rather than the individual. Just because your boss sent you two hours of revisions on your last writing assignment doesn’t mean you are a poor writer. It just means there is room for improvement.
- Try to separate yourself as an individual from the critique of your work.
Reflecting and Following Up on Feedback
Assess the feedback.Not all feedback is worthy of further consideration once we’ve actively listened to what the person giving the feedback has to say. Each circumstance is different and you must assess the value of the feedback and decide if, how, and when to follow up on it.
- Think about who is giving the feedback and why. If your boss is asking you to improve your writing skills, this is valid feedback; however, if they criticize your new haircut, you might choose to not give this feedback as much value.
Focus your energy on the feedback instead of the critic.It’s easy to get flustered and even angry when someone gives us feedback. It’s important to keep your attention on the feedback itself instead of getting angry at, for example, your boss or spouse.
- Don’t get too upset if your sister criticizes your makeup. Instead try saying, “I thought my makeup looked great, but I’m always up for learning new things. Do you have any tips for nailing the smoky eye?”
Follow up.Once you’ve decided that the feedback is valuable to you, it’s important to follow up through words, actions, and/or modified behaviors. Simply saying you will do something is not enough, you must follow up with concrete actions.
- If your partner expresses that you aren’t cleaning the kitchen thoroughly, don’t brush them off. Instead, follow up by carefully washing the dishes after meals.
- If your boss gives you less than savory feedback on your public speaking skills, try signing up for the next webinar on public speaking that your company offers.
Express gratitude.This is important for both negative and positive feedback. Even if you don’t agree with all the feedback a person gives you, it’s important to thank them for taking the time to provide you with feedback. A sincere expression of gratitude can go a long way.
- Try saying, “Thank you for your feedback on my paper, Dr. Johnson. I really appreciate you taking time out of your schedule to meet with me and point out ways I can improve.”
- If your friend tells you they really admire your parenting, be sure say thank you.
Don’t let it get you down.It’s only feedback and everyone can become better at their professional and personal lives with a little bit on constructive criticism. Embrace the feedback but don’t let it consume you.
- Don't spend a ton of time pondering the feedback. Allow yourself a set amount of time, perhaps 15 – 20 minutes, to think about the feedback and process your emotions.
- Don't let negative thoughts about you or your work consume you. Try saying to yourself, "I have already spent enough time being angry about my boss's criticism.
Video: Receptive Overview
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