“You were brilliant, I loved every second of that workshop!”.

“Your voice sounds like the noise someone makes when they run their fingernails down a blackboard.”

Wow. What a day. Feedback was the theme of the day apparently, as I was served up both the initial affirmative version, as well as the second, deleterious one.

Funnily enough, feedback also happens to be Workology Co’s theme of the month for June.

But spoiler alert: I didn’t receive both the above gems on the same day. Truthfully, the second is a work of fiction. I mean I may not be auditioning for The Voice anytime soon (especially since Keith Urban is no longer a judge), but my aussie-drawl isn’t that bad.

Which is not to say I have never received negative feedback. I challenge you to show me someone who has never received a poor performance review, or dealt with a customer complaint, or generally been made to feel like s#*t by their manager.

Think back to the last time you received feedback, particularly of the less than flattering kind.

How did it make you feel? I would be willing to bet my Bruce Springsteen Box Set on the fact that for most of us, our first response would be a defensive one.

Feedback is a bit like Brussel sprouts…

Because of the way negative feedback can make us feel, we often overlook the fact that receiving feedback is actually an important component of growth, both on a professional and a personal level.

Something like Brussel sprouts. We may not like the taste (do you know anyone who does?), so we ignore the fact they are really, really good for us.

However we need to learn more about ourselves, so we can continue to grow and become the best version of ourselves.

The Johari Model shows this nicely:

When we receive feedback, we learn ‘things they know’ which are in our blind spot, and bada bing, bada boom, we are gifted insight.

Now I am fully aware there are people in this world for whom receiving feedback is a non-issue. I have two such legends in my circle.

But if you are like most of the people I have ever encountered in my working and personal life, you struggle with the ‘receiving’ part.

Even the compliments. I am reliably informed that receiving positive feedback can be extra hard (to the point of excruciating) for those perfectionists amongst us.

Yet as outlined above, feedback is crucial to self-growth. So how can you improve hearing it?

There is a wealth of information out there on the interwebs if you are after some tips on how to give feedback. Some of it is right here on my little corner of the web.

Looking for guides on how to receive feedback? Yep, not so easy to find.

Which is where I step in. No need to thank me, you reading this is all the thanks I need.

Ok, now for those tips

  1. Breathe

Assuming this is something you are already doing (and if not, I’m curious how you are reading this blog), then what I am suggesting you concentrate on at this point is to breathe figuratively, in conjunction with physically.

You have received that feedback and it’s not good. Your shoulders might involuntarily pull back, and you might have puffed up your chest. You’re tempted to open with a “Yes, But”.

Stop, put the handbrake on that defensiveness, and take another breath. Do not under any circumstances give an aggressive response.

Examine how you are feeling. Self awareness is the key and knowing how you feel enables you to choose an appropriate response.

Develop what renowned psychologist Adam Grant calls a challenge network, a circle of 3 people who will fearlessly and authentically give you the truth. The whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Accompanied by specific examples.

  1. Dig deeper

Ask the person giving the feedback for clarification and specific examples. You could say something along the lines of, ‘When you say I’m too aggressive, can you give me some specific examples of when you feel I have been too aggressive?”

  1. Ask yourself

Have an honest conversation with yourself. Are there elements of truth in the feedback, as awkward as it is to admit even to yourself?

On the other hand, was there anything that was genuinely incorrect?

  1. Circle back

After you have finished your reflection, make the time to go back and thank the person for giving you the feedback. We all know that takes effort and sometimes courage, so they deserve the recognition of a job well done

  1. Show up mindfully

It is also important that we are aware of how we show up post the feedback. Are we likely to give the other person the cold shoulder [note: this should be a hard NO!] or can we self-manage and choose a more productive mindset? [Note: this should be a YES. Even if it is a challenge]

Some final takeaways

Yes, receiving feedback can be all kinds of awkward. Though with practice, and by following these basic tips, you can look forward to reaching a place where you enjoy receiving feedback.

I cannot guarantee you will ever be in that place with respect to Brussel Sprouts.

Bonus tip: If you have been gifted with positive feedback along the lines of the “you were brilliant” kind, please breathe and then accept the compliment with grace. You deserve it, or it would not have been given to you.

If you are keen to learn more about both giving and receiving feedback, check out Workology Co’s new online training module, ‘Developing the Feedback Muscle’, or contact me via the usual channels.