Accepting Feedback - 4 Ways to Make the Most Out of Criticism

We've all been there...our egos get bruised from feedback (solicited or unsolicited) and we feel the need to either defend ourselves or hide away and lick our wounds.  In fact, a recent study by Tasha Eurich showed that even those of use who are great at learning from feedback still feel the same emotional pain initially. 

That emotional pain lights up the same areas of the brain as physical pain, according to neurological studies, so of course we don't like the immediate, and apparently universally human, reaction to feedback.  It hurts.

The importance of feedback, however, is critical to our self-awareness (another point made by Tasha Eurich), which in turn is important to our success as leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, and almost every other occupation.  Feedback makes us better by exposing our blind spots and allowing us to see ourselves accurately, without the clouding of our own misperceptions or egos.  Eurich's research is is good for us.

Bridging that gap between our initial, painful reaction to feedback and learning to seek it out in order to better ourselves can be challenging. 

Here are my suggestions on how to get the most out of feedback:

  • Say thank you first, even when you're not feeling it.  Feedback often comes from a helpful place.  Unfortunately, not everyone is great at giving feedback, so it can come off as unnecessarily hurtful.  Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, even if you're suspicious of their intentions, to be gracious.  Show them that you're grateful for their attempt to help you, even if hurts right now.

  • Keep from defending yourself.  There are two sides to every story.  Feedback is about listening to someone else's interpretation.  You already know your side of the story.  You don't have to prove anything to anyone.  Stop to urge to correct them or explain yourself.  Just listen.

  • Sit with it.  Wait until the emotion passes to consider the feedback objectively.  Was the feedback accurate?  Is it useful?  Consider the source.  Does this person usually have insightful perceptions?  Is this person someone whose opinion you respect?  Are you getting the same type of feedback from multiple sources?  Do you need more information?  
  • Decide how to act on it.  Again, you want to be thinking rationally for this step.  Ask yourself how you can make the most out of the feedback.  If you've deemed it not credible or helpful (without your ego involved), you can ignore it.  If there's any truth to it, you can choose improve yourself through changing your actions, habits, and/or mindset.

Carefully considering feedback and it's source and consciously deciding how to act upon it can be easier said than done.  This may take practice and time.  Take comfort that you are on the path to more self-awareness and more success.

Dr. Nancy Williams is a musician, educator, and leadership/life coach who specializes in helping creatives lead with joy and empowerment.  Subscribe to her weekly emails of inspiration and leadership tips and receive the free guide "3 Ways to Beat Imposter Syndrome" and the links to new blogposts.

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