Feedback is a gift, but self-awareness is the key to unlocking it – Tips to handle constructive feedback

My take on receiving and handling feedback is a little bit unorthodox. Similar to many people, I do think that feedback is a gift. However, I don’t think that everyone sharing feedback is Santa Claus. I don’t really think you should mindlessly take in every single piece of feedback without first deconstructing everything around it and understanding the different lenses applied to it. Allow me to explain this.

Yes, feedback is a gift, but self-awareness is the key to unlocking it.

Know that you have to filter the feedback you receive. Yes, taking in feedback and wanting to improve based on it is good, but you also have to keep in mind who gave you the feedback and what is their own lens on life and work. Oftentimes, with office politics in place, managers and colleagues can have their own agendas so it’s good to look at things with perspective and a critical eye, and most importantly, a good dose of self-awareness.

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My three tips on how to handle constructive feedback:

  • When it comes to receiving constructive feedback, be courteous. There is no point in getting defensive or getting upset about it, especially when the feedback is being shared. Stay calm and level-headed and speak to being open to taking the feedback in and reflecting on it. Ideally, and especially if not given, you should be asking for specific examples that illustrate the point shared (this is also a way to test the feedback giver to make sure they have grounds for it).
  • If it’s a very concrete piece of feedback – like the way you prepared or delivered a presentation – listen carefully and dissect what you can action. Maybe you really didn’t structure it well, or it wasn’t too well prepared. Reflect on it and take action so you can improve it next time.
  • If it’s more of a vague feedback piece that they can’t seem to pinpoint to a concrete action/situation, apply a good dose of self-awareness, and honestly, just move on. Always take into account the person giving you feedback and their own lens on work and life as well as their own biases. Chances are, they are giving feedback on themselves or they are just giving it for the sake of doing so.

Bottom line is, know your strengths and even better, know your weaknesses, so you can actually properly reflect on the feedback and if it’s truly worth your time. Ideally, you also have a trusted colleague/friend/partner/mentor that you can use as a sounding board when you are having doubts about certain feedback.

This strategy works very well if you are good at gauging your performance, the quality of your work, and know your strengths and weaknesses. If you are struggling at matching your perceived performance with how others perceive it, then it makes sense to work on uncovering and understanding that gap and where it’s coming from.

What do you think about my approach to feedback? Do you agree with it? Anything you want to add? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, would love to hear from you!

4 Comments

  1. Love these tips! You know one thing a mentor told me early on was that when presented with feedback (positive or constructive), decide whether you accept the feedback or not. If you don’t, choose to not dwell on it and make your life miserable. I live by this rule and totally resonate with the “move on” point.

    1. It’s so great that your mentor shared such valuable advice, and I’m so glad to hear you are resonating with the “move on” part and live by it. Often times we anyhow waste a lot of mental energy by being our worst critics – at least I know I do – there is no need to dwell on unfounded opinions of people that do not matter in the grand scheme of things.

      I also totally agree that both positive and negative feedback should be filtered. There is empty praise and well founded praise, and it’s important to keep it real so we can keep growing.

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