Receiving feedback, whether positive or negative, can be challenging for a lot of people. It may seem hard to imagine how to apply emotional intelligence in a typically passive role, but
in fact you will probably benefit more if you know how to receive feedback in an active way instead. Think of it like active vs passive listening - when actively listening, we make the other person feels heard and we reinforce that we’re engaged. It also
gives us an opportunity to ask questions and clarify points of confusion. If we only listen passively, we’re more likely to make the other person feel unheard and uncertain if we’re actually paying attention. We then rob ourselves of the opportunity to learn from the conversation and the other person. It’s much the same when receiving feedback - be an active participant so that it is a discussion. Not only will you learn more and avoid confusion, you will be less likely to feel defensive, especially if it’s negative feedback. All that being said, you’ll still probably have to deal with receiving negative feedback from people who are not skilled at giving it, which can be uncomfortable. If that’s the case these tips should still be useful because you can glean information that will benefit you in the long run.
1. Ask Questions
Be an active participant! Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions when you’re confused or feel like you’re missing something. Whether you don’t understand the feedback or you’re just having some trouble processing it, ask questions to clarify, or even ask if you can take some time to think it over. This is a great opportunity to advocate for yourself, especially if the feedback took you by surprise or you feel uncomfortable with it. It’s okay to be confused or concerned, just remember that you’re allowed to ask for clarification.
2. Give The Benefit of The Doubt
Unless prior experience has dictated otherwise, if you know yourself to be instinctively defensive when faced with critique, it’s good to remind yourself to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. If you know they generally mean well, remind yourself of that if you notice that you’re starting to get anxious or stressed. This is also the right time to be asking questions, as mentioned above, but remember to keep them open-ended to avoid sounding defensive. Your feelings are completely valid, but they might not be as useful as you need if the situation doesn’t call for it.
3. Receive Positive Feedback Positively
Getting negative feedback is hard, but many people find that even positive feedback is difficult to accept, especially if they struggle with imposter syndrome. The best thing you can do is to say thank you. It’s okay to feel conflicted about it, but remind yourself that you would not be receiving this feedback if you didn’t earn it. It could also just be that you don’t like receiving positive feedback publicly because being put on the spot makes you uncomfortable. If that’s the case, say as much to your boss if they regularly give you a shout out in meetings or like to commend you in front of your team while working. Just because it’s good doesn’t mean you don’t still have the right to dictate how you receive it!
4. Communicate Your Needs
As mentioned in the previous point, if you prefer to receive feedback in a specific way, you can say so to your boss ahead of time, ideally when you first start the job. It’s never too late to speak up though, and it’s fine if your preferences change. For example, if you’re going through something difficult in your personal life and find that you’re more sensitive to negative feedback because of it, you can ask your boss to be mindful of that. Clear communication is crucial if you want your needs to be heard and understood.
We know these points may be harder if you’re not in a great work environment, but they will still be very useful in receiving feedback, especially if it’s negative. Being told we’re doing something wrong is never fun, which is why it’s important to go into each situation with good intentions and good communication. Understanding our mistakes is, after all, how we learn to do better, so receiving critical feedback is crucial to our growth. Know yourself and your needs and know that you have the right to advocate for yourself, even if someone else is making you feel like you can’t. Many of us struggle to receive feedback whether positive OR negative and that’s okay. The important thing is to listen actively and always strive to improve incrementally every single day.