Monday, November 29, 2010

How to Receive Feedback

Knowing how to receive feedback is an acquired skill. That’s because it’s natural to become defensive, assign blame or offer excuses for your behavior. When you learn how to respond to constructive criticism the right way, your interactions will look like dialogue instead of arguments…and your relationships will be strengthened in ways you can’t even imagine.

What will you say the next time someone gives you constructive criticism about something you said or did?

“Oh, what a great gift we would have if we could only see ourselves as others see us." - Robert Burns, Scottish poet 
“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” - Norman Vincent Peale, American author

“The greatest of all faults is to be conscious of none.” - Thomas Carlyle, British essayist

“A man needs self-acceptance or he can't live with himself; he needs self-criticism or others can't live with him.” - James A. Pike, American minister


  1. This is a wonderful way to help build relationships by accepting the criticism, being open to understanding the cause in the other persons mind and then making the effort to change. It's an important component of effective communication and I appreciate the reminder.
    All the Best,

  2. Phil, I appreciate your positive feedback. So many important conversations are derailed when someone gets defensive about what he/she is hearing. I believe that, the stronger one's own sense of self-worth, the easier it is to hear constructive feedback because you don't take it as a measure of your value.

  3. Hi,

    Well-written tips here. A trainer once offered the following advice on how to receive feedback.

    In Indian temples it is customary for the priest to distribute a piece of jaggery or coconut or similar item as "prasaad", a divine offering after it has been blessed by the deity. Even if the particular item is something a person is not willing to consume, out of politeness, they would accept it respectfully rather than declining or throwing it away.

    The trainer mentioned that when someone offers feedback, receive it as you would receive the temple offering. Whether it makes sense, does it warrant corrective action, does it give you new insights about the feedback giver's intentions... , such an analysis is your prerogative and you can do it later. But first, receive the feedback without throwing it back on the person giving it, without converting it into a debate.

    I found this to be a useful way to look at feedback in general and it has helped me handle criticism better.

  4. RG, thank you for sharing that analogy. It creates a concrete image that anyone can keep in mind when someone offers them feedback. I appreciate your taking time to share the important lesson you learned from that trainer.

  5. This is a wonderful piece of advice, Meredith. I could not agree more. I recommed thanking them for their comment because being that genuine is a gift. Then I suggest following up with what i call 5 questions - not a barage of defensive questions, but some of the ones you posed in your video. Great things come from this starting with improved understandings.

    For example, I had a problem with a person for a year because I took her behavior as being very nosey. Then I would hear something shared with her being voiced by others I had not talked to. I did confront this and in getting to know her better learned that she has a high expectation of justice (if I had one cookie I would give it to her to divide among three people because she would take extraordinary pains to make it equal), and I learned that she was a natural connector and sharing was a way to find connections. I just had to be more responsible with what i shared. So the feedback deepened the relationship and gave me added awareness where it was no longer necessary to form judement with division.

    It was a gift.

  6. I find it also beneficial to acknowledge the "critic's" possible discomfort in giving a "non-glowing" review. Something along the lines of "I'm so glad you brought that to my attention. It's not always easy to tell someone their breath smells like used kitty litter. I admire your honesty. You wouldn't happen to have a breath mint, would you?"

    Seriously. It's NOT always easy to give negative feedback, and acknowledging that fact helps put the other person at ease.

  7. Casper, excellent point! It's amazing what a few words can do to help put the "critic" at ease. While some people do seem to actually like criticizing or giving negative feedback, I think most people agonize ahead of time about how to deliver the information, and it's reassuring when the recipient responds graciously instead of defensively.


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