Understanding Feedback and How to Improve the Skill of Receiving It

It is essential to learn how to receive feedback because it is up to you if you take it in and put it into practice. When you receive feedback, there are a lot of things that go through your mind. These thoughts can cause you to miss or disregard it altogether. Your opinion of the person providing the feedback also determines how well you listen and if you apply it. Because so many people have given feedback improperly, you have become turned off by getting it, and this is a great disservice to your learning.

You need feedback because that is what makes you better; it is a large part of your ability to grow. Achieving mastery is a gratifying experience as is being respected, needed and loved. And since you have been given it improperly, you think of it in a way that negates those desires. Learning the skill of receiving feedback enables you to take charge of your learning and how people see you.

What Happens When You Get Feedback

When receiving feedback, you are trying to figure out if it is right or wrong and if it applies to you. If you feel it is incorrect, you ignore it, and if it is correct, you worry about it. But there is always something wrong with the feedback, and this leads to most people dismissing it altogether. However, don’t ignore feedback because there may be a small piece of it that is true.


Who is giving you the feedback is also essential and can overshadow it. How much you trust the person will determine how you value their feedback. You may feel they have an agenda for giving it to you or wonder who are they to provide you with that feedback. Perhaps you don’t even care about their opinion. These thoughts cause you to focus on the “who” and not the “what.”

Understanding How You Receive Feedback

We are all different in how we tell ourselves who we are and this will impact how we respond to feedback. Understanding your level of sensitivity helps you accurately evaluate and implement it. If you are overly sensitive, you become devastated by negative feedback, and that distorts your understanding of the message. Therefore, you ignore or discount it altogether. An excellent example of this is when you get feedback from someone who has a direct approach, you likely aren’t receptive because the directness is off-putting to you.

If you are the kind of person who operates on the overly bright side, you see the good in everything. You to focus just on the positives and miss the critical feedback that will help you grow. If the person giving the feedback is using the sandwich approach, positive, negative, positive, you lose the middle and only hear the two positives. But the middle is where the growth and improvement is and how you get to mastery.


The Three Types of Feedback

Feedback happens in several ways. In passing, at the moment, in a formal one-to-one or during an annual review. There are three types of feedback:

  1. Appreciation – they see you, you matter, they understand you.
  2. Coaching – this is what helps you get better and is the most valuable feedback you get.
  3. Evaluation – this is how you rank, rate and stack up against others doing what you do. It is some most emotionally loud because it is judging and due to this can drown out the coaching.

Think back to the last time you complained about not getting enough feedback. What you were probably complaining about is a lack of appreciation. When you feel you aren’t receiving coaching, that is likely the result of poorly blended coaching with an evaluation.

We are conditioned to hear all feedback as evaluation or judgment and react that way despite how the person intended it. Think about the sandwich approach, as outlined above, and you’ll understand why. Because you see the coach building the sandwich, you know judgment is coming, so you ignore the positives thinking they were only added to soften the negative. And even if the positives are genuine, you dismiss them because you assume they aren’t.


How to Have a Productive Feedback Conversation

Most of the feedback we receive comes in really vague labels. Be more of a team player, be more proactive, be more/less assertive, speak up more. What does any of this mean? What exactly do you need to do differently? These can mean hundreds of different things. Understanding the feedback helps you know if it is valuable to you. You have to gain the courage, when receiving coaching or evaluations, to ask the additional questions if it isn’t clear. In asking further questions, you create a more productive conversation.

Ask “what was it you saw me do or not do that leads you to say I need to improve here.” Ask to share an example of how the outcome would have looked had the change been made. Asking the right follow-up questions will produce a higher-quality conversation, and that is the goal of getting feedback.

Taking control and having a more productive and higher-quality conversation doesn’t mean you have to take the feedback. Instead, it is becoming better at listening to it, sorting through it to find what is valuable and making a sound and informed decision on what to try and what to discard.


Who and How to Ask for Feedback

Most of the time when people ask for feedback they pick people who they enjoy working around. But those people often don’t see your opportunities because you have a comfortable and complementary working relationship. Instead, ask the people you find are difficult to work with because they will see your opportunities. These are the people who will give you the best coaching. Asking your most prominent critics will also change your working relationship because you will improve how you work with them.

You need people to be honest with you, and for that to happen, you need to be clear on what you are asking. Asking someone for feedback is general and broad. It catches them off, and they aren’t prepared for that kind of conversation. Instead, ask for one thing by asking what is one thing you see me doing or not doing that is preventing me from moving forward.

By asking for one thing, you are telling them you are aware that there is something for you to do better and are asking them to pick one. By asking this question, you invite the person to share something concrete and honest with you that will truly help you grow.


#WhyYouNow Should Improve the Skill of Getting Feedback

We are never a finished product. Learning is a lifelong event, and you need to have a growth identity. Adopting this belief will help you crave it because you understand the power of knowing what you need to improve. You lower your aversion to feedback because you know it isn’t a verdict about how good you are or how competent you are. It is telling you where you need to go next on your growth journey. Take charge of, and accelerate your learning and be aware of how much further you have to go in terms of personal development.

Ask for the negative on what you can do better rather than compliments. Critical feedback will help you adapt to new roles more quickly, have higher job satisfaction and get stellar performance reviews. Learning and improving this skill enables you to take charge of your learning and how people see you.

Last updated on April 21st, 2019 at 08:46 am

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Jason Cortel is currently the Director of Global Workforce Management for a leading technology company. He has been in customer service, marketing, and sales services for over 20 years. In addition, he has extensive experience in offshore and nearshore outsourcing. Jason is an avid Star Trek fan and is on a mission to change the universe by helping people develop professionally. He is driven to help managers and leaders lead their teams better. Jason is also a veteran in creating talent and office cultures.

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