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The art of receiving feedback

By Eve Vlemincx.


Feedback is an integral part of our lives, and we all receive it. It’s a process of providing information to someone about their performance or behavior. We all encounter feedback in our lives, but there is a fundamental difference between giving and receiving feedback.


When we talk about feedback, we tend to focus on giving it, but the recipient’s position is even more important. After all, the receiver decides whether or not to accept the feedback, while the giver can only provide it. As a result, learning how to receive feedback is essential for personal and professional growth.


Why is receiving feedback difficult?

Receiving feedback can be difficult and stressful, even if we know the giver's intentions are good and meant to help us grow. As humans, we have fundamental needs, such as the need to belong and be accepted as we are on one hand and the need for growth and development on the other. Receiving feedback can be challenging because it implies that something about us is not (yet) good enough. As a result, we often perceive feedback as a personal attack. Therefore, we need to learn how to handle receiving feedback better.


Receiving Feedback

Most indivuals lack the knowledge of receiving feedback effectively. As a solution, we must shift our perspective to view it as an opportunity for growth and development and differentiate our actions from our personal identity. To cultivate a growth mindset that welcomes feedback as a means of learning, we should incorporate it into our daily practices. Receiving feedback on a regular basis can help us become more accustomed to it. The more feedback we receive, the easier it becomes to receive it.


Changing Our Perception of Feedback

Feedback is a gift that someone gives us, an opportunity to discover our blind spots and grow. Therefore it is crucial to learn how to receive feedback effectively. Although feedback may not always be packed attractively, we should not focus on how it is delivered. Many people are not trained in giving feedback, so we may have to learn to receive it without getting hung up on the delivery and focus on the lessons we can learn from it regardless.

One common mistake is "wrong spotting," where we focus on how the feedback is delivered and if there is any inconsistency, we dismiss it altogether. This approach prevents us from learning and improving. Instead, we need to listen to feedback with genuine curiosity, even if it is difficult to hear.


Curiosity is Key

We must resist the urge to become defensive or dismissive and take time to reflect on the feedback before responding. Listen with genuine curiosity and understand it from the other’s perspective. If we become defensive, it is less likely that the person will give us more feedback. It is best to let feedback sink in and not react immediately. Learning how to receive feedback takes time and effort, but if we do not learn to receive feedback, we might hinder our growth.


Actively Seek Feedback

Actively seeking feedback is essential for improving our ability to receive it. Moreover, when we demonstrate that we are open to receiving feedback, people become more comfortable providing it. To ensure that we receive valuable feedback, we should be specific in our requests. Otherwise, it may be unclear what aspects of our work we want feedback on and to what extent we can deal with it. Providing a structure, such as asking for feedback on what we do well, what we should continue doing, and what we should stop doing, can make it easier for others to provide us with constructive feedback.


Benefits of receiving feedback:

Although it might be difficult to receive feedback, there are many benefits associated with it, such as:

  1. Improved performance: Feedback provides insight into what is going well and where we can make improvmeents. By using this information and taking action we can drive our growht and improve performance.

  2. Increased satisfaction: When we receive feedback, it shows that others are interested in our growth and development. This can contribute to a sense of recognition and appreciation, leading to greater satisfaction and fulfillment in our work or personal life.

  3. Faster growth: Feedback can help us grow faster by pointing out blind spots and areas where we can improve. By being aware of these areas and taking targeted action to address them, we can grow faster and achieve our goals more quickly.

  4. Increased self-awareness: Feedback can help you better understand yourself and become aware of your strengths and development areas. This can contribute to a greater sense of self-awareness and confidence, as we understand what to work on.

  5. Improved relationships: Feedback can improve communication and relationships by helping to address unspoken issues or tensions. By being open to feedback and constructively addressing criticism, we can contribute to a more positive and supportive work environment or personal relationship.

Conclusion

In summary, learning how to receive feedback is a valuable skill that requires effort and time, but it is essential for personal and professional growth. We need to change our perception of feedback and learn to receive it without becoming defensive and instead embrace feedback as a learning opportunity that it is. Seek it out actively, and listen with curiosity. Feedback is a gift that someone gives us, and as a result we become better versions of ourselves.


References:

Buckingham, M., & Goodall, A. (2019). The feedback fallacy. Harvard Business Review, 97(1), 92-101.

Stone, D., & Heen, S. (2014). Thanks for the feedback: The science and art of receiving feedback well. Penguin.

 

About the Author Eve Vlemincx is an advisor on a broad range of topics regarding legal digital transformation – innovation – leadership. In addition she is an advisor for Harvard Business Review, Executive Course Facilitator at Stanford Graduate School of Business and 5 times Stanford GSB LEAD-Award winner.


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