Receiving and integrating feedback from other people is an important skill to have in business – but also in other walks of life. Most people realize that feedback is one of the best mechanisms by which we all learn, yet far too often people struggle with receiving feedback; why is that?
You may not have asked for the feedback, but you can still learn from it. You should remain curious in trying to understand the other person's point of view. By being aware that everyone has a different perspective and opinion, you'll be able to view the feedback as something that is not a threat but rather some interesting new data, based on someone’s opinion. By trying to understand another perspective, you'll be able to learn and grow in a way that you wouldn't have otherwise.
“The perfect feedback” is built from three components: 1. Observation, 2. Impact, and 3. Action. When receiving feedback, you should always aim at understanding each of those even if the other person is struggling to communicate them first. The easier way to get there is through active listening and smart, curious questions about each component.
- Observation: what happened, where and when, who did what exactly
- Impact: what was the results of what happened
- Action: is there a concrete thing you can do or change
By understanding these elements clearly, you will be able to understand how you may be able to improve in the future, which will benefit you.
But sometimes it’s very tempting to reject feedback (we wrote about that here), and that’s the right time to take a look in the mirror and reflect. Implementing the following four tips requires some self-awareness but will help you get more out of the feedback you receive.
It’s important to understand that people sometimes have incomplete information or missing data; that’s to say, there is a disconnect between your and their experience. You may have a different understanding or an alternative perspective on the data, so it’s vital that you ask the other person calmly about their opinion on the issue. Then, explain your stance on what happened, and try to communicate constructively until you both reach a place of mutual understanding.
After receiving feedback, you could ask someone else for their feedback on the same topic. Just ensure that you are doing this to gain more insight into the matter and learn more, not to get more support for your own personal point of view.
When you feel the urge to “switch-track” the discussion into some other issue about the feedback giver, then it’s best to pause for a moment, take a step back and then return to the original feedback. A great response in such situations would be something like, “I think I have some feedback for you about this same topic, but let’s discuss that separately and first focus on your feedback to me.” Then, just try to be genuinely curious about the other person's point of view.
When feedback conflicts your identity, it can feel overwhelming. You can say that you appreciate the feedback but need to reflect before talking more about it. If you feel comfortable enough, it’s best to ask clarifying questions to understand the situation concretely. It's important to understand that feedback is very rarely, if ever, intended to be a personal attack; rather, it is simply another person’s effort to address a situation with the intention of improving things – so it’s best for everyone to view it as such.
When you’re struggling to focus on the feedback, and it doesn’t seem to hit any of the triggers mentioned above, it could be that you simply have too many other topics on your mind. That is perfectly ok, and the best you can do is to communicate to the other person that now is not a great time for you to have this discussion, but you would love to get back to it later.
Sometimes it can be really difficult to receive feedback. But being aware of the reasons behind your own reaction to feedback can help you better manage your response, and eventually help you get much more out of the discussion. People often feel uncomfortable giving feedback, because nobody wants to hurt somebody else's feelings. By demonstrating that you are open to hear others’ views and willing to receive feedback, you will be doing a great service to whoever you work with.