Receiving feedback gracefully
Be open to constructive criticism instead of reacting defensively
With effective tools for taking in and processing criticism, we can depersonalize it. Doing so can help us become better friends, co-workers, and leaders.
In the GoodTherapy article, Managing Feedback Gracefully: A Key Skill in the Positive Use of Power, Amanda Aguilera, PsyD, says that receiving (and giving) feedback comes down to acceptance.
“Although we all have both desire for learning, and longing for belonging and acceptance, the need for acceptance is stronger,” Aguilera notes. “So, if we feel our acceptance is at risk, we will tend to avoid giving feedback and/or block receiving it.”
A poor feedback process runs the risk of the recipient feeling unaccepted. On the other hand, feedback delivered thoughtfully can bring depth and strength to the relationship.
As the person receiving feedback, try to find some control over the feedback process. For example, ask for feedback instead of waiting for it to happen. This allows you to set the time and type of feedback. Ask for specific input like, “Do you feel I communicated those concepts clearly?” Other ways to exercise some control include asking to reschedule or asking the other person to speak slowly. This allows for time to process the information.
Filter the Feedback – What Merits Our Attention?
In The Right Way to Respond to Negative Feedback in the Harvard Business Review, psychologist Tasha Eurich explores how negative feedback can help us examine our actions. It can help us identify how we might need to change.
This is not always an easy process, Eurich notes. But becoming angry or defensive may impair our success. Also, not all critical feedback is given with pure motives. It can be inaccurate or—worse—deliberately harmful in nature. “… a coworker who wants to throw us off our game; a boss who has completely unachievable expectations; an employee who is scared to speak truth to power; a friend who projects her own issues onto us. It’s hard to know what is real and what should be filtered out,” Eurich states.
Eurich offers several ways to hear critical feedback with an open mind. We can then filter it effectively, without devastating our confidence. These include:
Slow down your reactions.
Take a moment to provide balance and consider your positive qualities, not just what is being criticized. File under, “Keep the bigger picture in mind.”
Get more information.
You could ask others if they share the same point of view regarding the critique. (It is important to seek this from people we trust.)
Some people isolate themselves after criticism. Instead, surround yourself with people who speak the truth to you. Keep an open dialogue going.
Remember you can’t change everything at once.
Some behaviors are deeply ingrained, and can’t simply be fixed. You might need to admit to a personal flaw. For example, not being a good listener at times. You can admit this to those around you, and let them know it doesn’t mean you don’t value them. It can be a first step in asking for their help.
Critical feedback from friends, family and supervisors can hurt if we let it. But knowing that you remain you, even when criticized, can help you feel less anxious and threatened. Learning how to process the information can ultimately help you.
“Never react emotionally to criticism. Analyze yourself to determine whether it is justified. If it is, correct yourself. Otherwise, go on about your business.” – Norman Vincent Peale
Handling Criticism at Work
“You’re doing a great job, but…” are words that can strike fear in the bravest of us. Knowing how to listen to constructive criticism can make the process easier, and make you better at your job.
Try not to take it personally. Remember you are not your job, and this is not a reflection of your character.
Process the criticism. Avoid getting defensive. Make sure you understand the feedback (perhaps by paraphrasing back to the other person). Articulate what you plan to do differently. (Then do it.) This shows maturity.
Show appreciation. Acknowledge the other person’s honesty and understand that it was probably difficult for them to deliver.
Show humility. Flying off the handle doesn’t solve anything. Your ego may be bruised, but try to keep an open mind about what you’ve been told.
Don’t dwell on the criticism. Try not to replay the conversation over and over. Process it without second-guessing everything … and then move on.
Tips for giving effective feedback
Giving feedback can be as hard as getting it. Sure, it’s easier to avoid giving criticism and wish the behavior or situation will magically improve on its own. But will that work? Not always. Instead, use these suggestions to help frame the difficult conversation in a way that will help both sides.
- Use direct examples of actual observations, not hearsay.
- Be descriptive and specific.
- Consider the needs of the person with whom you are speaking.
- Provide realistic suggestions for improvement.
- Keep the conversation about growth, not about personality traits.
Source: Mayo Clinic
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