For too many people, feedback is a dirty word. It conjures images of being called to the principal’s office or to the dinner table by your parents as a child, and gives birth to the clichés of collective adult horror at your boss saying “see me before you leave” or your significant other greeting you with “we need to talk.” Now as adults, none of these things should necessarily be that scary. Serious talks are times for growth and communication and can lead to so many good things! Human nature being what it is, though, it can be hard to avoid the instinctive cringe when you think you’ll hear something negative about yourself, your work, or your business. But it can be done.
Don’t fear feedback –
Feedback can be scary, because what if it’s something negative or what if you find out something you’d rather not know, but it is the way to improve and learn. You can’t fix something you don’t know is broken, and you can’t improve something that you don’t see may have a weakness.
Be gracious –
Even if you disagree with the feedback given, accept it in the spirit of someone communicating with you and wanting you to improve. Maybe that won’t always be true, because there will probably always be people who use what they think is feedback as a way to criticize people with impunity, but it’s best for your sanity and your reputation to behave as if the feedback is being given with the best of intentions.
Consider feedback carefully and then use only what you can –
Give every piece of feedback you get serious consideration, let it sit until you can look at it objectively if need be, especially if the feedback is poking at a sensitive spot for you, and then toss out what you can’t use. Everyone has a different perspective, and every piece of feedback may not ultimately be useful to you, and as long as you give everything due consideration, that’s just fine.
Suspend any defensive responses that you might naturally feel.
Don’t do this:
Frankly, most of us had had negative experiences with receiving feedback so our initial reaction may be a “fight or flight” response. Work to keep your emotions in check!
Use it as information.
Remember, we are not going to label feedback as either positive or negative. It is simply feedback—useful information that can provide you with new insights or understandings about how you or your behaviours are perceived by others. You are always in control of your own response so you get to choose whether you are going to respond emotionally, defensively, or whether you will focus on the feedback as useful, character-building information.
Using a non-defensive tone and body language, seek additional information, particularly if the person giving you feedback hasn’t provided you with specific details.
For example, you could say,
“I’m sure you know that providing exceptional customer service is very important to me, so I want to make sure I understand more about how I came across in this situation. Could you give me a specific example about what you observed?”