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Receiving Feedback Allows You to Manage Your Career

Who have you fired lately? The person who cuts your hair or lawn? A doctor, accountant, or restaurant where you had a bad experience? Did you call any of those providers and tell them why you were replacing them? My hunch is no. There’s little incentive to do so. Why risk their defensiveness? It’s easier to just replace themreceiving feedback. And the same is true for you.

There’s little incentive for the people you work with to tell you when you frustrate them. The perceived cost seems too high. The people you work (and live) with have experienced others’ defensive responses to negative feedback (which is no fun) and they don’t want to experience your reaction. As a result, when you disappoint or frustrate others, it’s easier to say nothing than tell you the truth.

The tendency for others to tell you things are fine when they’re not will prevent you from managing your career and relationships. People will go missing and/or you’ll be passed over for professional opportunities and never know why.

To make it more likely that people will tell you when you disappoint or frustrate them, make it easy to tell you the truth.

Here are seven practices for receiving feedback:

Receiving Feedback Practice #1: When you begin new relationships, tell people you want their feedback.

Receiving Feedback Practice #2: Promise that no matter what people say, you’ll respond with “thank you.” This is very hard to do.

Receiving Feedback Practice #3: Tell people you already have relationships with that if you haven’t said it in the past, you really want their feedback and promise to respond graciously with “thank you.”

Receiving Feedback Practice #4: Ask people who matter to you for feedback regularly.

Receiving Feedback Practice #5: Resist the urge to get defensive.

Receiving Feedback Practice #6: Catch yourself when you start to become defensive and apologize. Say something like, “I’m getting defensive. I’m sorry. Tell me again. I’ll do a better job of listening.”

Receiving Feedback Practice #7: Take a break from conversations during which you find yourself responding defensively. Say something like, “I’m not responding as well as I’d like. How about we take a break? Give me a few minutes (hours or days) and I’ll come back to you to talk more. I really want to hear what you have to say.”

The aforementioned list provides recommendations for asking for and receiving feedback you want, not feedback you don’t. You are not a dumping ground. Don’t ask for feedback you don’t want. And when you do ask for feedback, qualify what type of feedback you’re looking for. Telling people “I want your feedback” doesn’t mean they’re welcome to say whatever they want.

The purpose of asking for feedback and making it safe to tell the truth is to give you more control over your career and relationships. It’s ok to be passed over for opportunities and relationships, but it’s unhelpful not to know why.


Responding to Feedback – Do the Opposite of What People Expect

Accepting feedbackMost people avoid giving feedback because they’re concerned about (don’t want to deal with) the other person’s defensive response. It’s easier to say nothing than deal with someone’s defensiveness. So we say things are fine when they’re not.

If you want people to tell you the truth, do the opposite of what they expect when responding to feedback. Rather than become defensive, say, “thank you.”

Saying “thank you for the feedback” is not intended to be a pollyanna response, nor does it mean you agree and that the person is right. Saying “thank you” catches the other person off guard (in a good way) and buys you time to think and respond calmly, making it more likely that you’ll get feedback in the future.

Each of us wants to be thought well of and be seen as competent. Negative feedback calls both into question and the brain responds defensively. The challenge is that defensive responses scare other people into silence. And you only need to get defensive once for people to believe that you don’t deal well with feedback.

Don’t underestimate the power of your emotions and ego. You are likely to respond to feedback defensively, even if you don’t see yourself do it. A seemingly benign ‘explanation’ of why you did something as you did it, is seen as defensive and is thus off putting to others.

Here are six strategies for responding to feedback well:

  1. Responding to feedback strategy one: Have feedback conversations when you have the time to listen and are rested. If you’re tired, on a deadline, or rushing to your next meeting, the conversation will not go well.
  2. Responding to feedback strategy two: If someone catches you off guard with feedback and you know you won’t respond well, interrupt the person. Tell him that you appreciate him bringing this to your attention and you want to give the conversation the attention it deserves, but now isn’t a good time. Schedule a time to finish the conversation within a few days.
  1. Responding to feedback strategy three: Have a plan for how you’re going to respond to scheduled/planned feedback conversations before the conversations start.  Tell yourself, “I will say thank you, end the conversation, and ask for another time to talk.”
  1. Responding to feedback strategy four: If you receive feedback that doesn’t feel accurate, ask others, who you trust, what they think. Just be prepared to hear what they have to say, and, of course, respond with “thank you.”
  1. Responding to feedback strategy five: Don’t respond to negative feedback in the moment, even if the other person wants you to and you think you can do so without being defensive. Don’t underestimate the power of your emotions. You will be upset, even if you don’t feel upset, and your response will be better after you’ve had time to process. Tell the person who gave you feedback that you take their feedback seriously and want to respond thoughtfully, and thus you’re going to think about what s/he said before responding. People may be frustrated with this response at first, but they’ll be appreciative later.
  1. Responding to feedback strategy six: Be sure to get back to the person, who has feedback for you, within a few days. Tell him you thought about what he said and then tell him how you feel. You can speak candidly. Your words will be calmer and more thoughtful then when you received the initial feedback.

We know people are hesitant to give feedback. Make giving you feedback easier by responding calmly. No one expects to hear “thank you for the feedback.” Your unemotional response will strengthen your reputation and relationships, and make it more likely that you get more feedback in the future.

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Responding to Feedback – Do the Opposite of What People Expect

Responding to feedback

Most people avoid giving feedback because they’re concerned about (don’t want to deal with) the other person’s defensive response. It’s easier to say nothing than deal with someone’s defensiveness. So we say things are fine when they’re not.

If you want people to tell you the truth, do the opposite of what they expect when responding to feedback. Rather than become defensive, say, “thank you.”

Saying “thank you for the feedback” is not intended to be a pollyanna response, nor does it mean you agree and that the person is right. Saying “thank you” catches the other person off guard (in a good way) and buys you time to think and respond calmly, making it more likely that you’ll get feedback in the future.

Each of us wants to be thought well of and be seen as competent. Negative feedback calls both into question and the brain responds defensively. The challenge is that defensive responses scare other people into silence. And you only need to get defensive once for people to believe that you don’t deal well with feedback.

Don’t underestimate the power of your emotions and ego. You are likely to respond to feedback defensively, even if you don’t see yourself do it. A seemingly benign ‘explanation’ of why you did something as you did it, is seen as defensive and is thus off putting to others.

Here are six strategies for responding to feedback well:

  1. Responding to feedback strategy one: Have feedback conversations when you have the time to listen and are rested. If you’re tired, on a deadline, or rushing to your next meeting, the conversation will not go well.
  2. Responding to feedback strategy two: If someone catches you off guard with feedback and you know you won’t respond well, interrupt the person. Tell him that you appreciate him bringing this to your attention and you want to give the conversation the attention it deserves, but now isn’t a good time. Schedule a time to finish the conversation within a few days.
  1. Responding to feedback strategy three: Have a plan for how you’re going to respond to scheduled/planned feedback conversations before the conversations start.  Tell yourself, “I will say thank you, end the conversation, and ask for another time to talk.”
  1. Responding to feedback strategy four: If you receive feedback that doesn’t feel accurate, ask others, who you trust, what they think. Just be prepared to hear what they have to say, and, of course, respond with “thank you.”
  1. Responding to feedback strategy five: Don’t respond to negative feedback in the moment, even if the other person wants you to and you think you can do so without being defensive. Don’t underestimate the power of your emotions. You will be upset, even if you don’t feel upset, and your response will be better after you’ve had time to process. Tell the person who gave you feedback that you take their feedback seriously and want to respond thoughtfully, and thus you’re going to think about what s/he said before responding. People may be frustrated with this response at first, but they’ll be appreciative later.
  1. Responding to feedback strategy six: Be sure to get back to the person, who has feedback for you, within a few days. Tell him you thought about what he said and then tell him how you feel. You can speak candidly. Your words will be calmer and more thoughtful then when you received the initial feedback.

We know people are hesitant to give feedback. Make giving you feedback easier by responding calmly. No one expects to hear “thank you for the feedback.” Your unemotional response will strengthen your reputation and relationships, and make it more likely that you get more feedback in the future.

Book Feedback


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