Feedback is a fact of life and fundamental to our success. Of course, when feedback comes your way, you don’t have to act immediately, or act every time. However, you do need to make sure you listen. File it away for future reference, if necessary. Here are tips for hearing tough feedback and reacting graciously.
When we receive tough feedback, the amygdala in our brains is triggered. This is the piece of our limbic system responsible for the fight or flight response. Unfortunately, that response, designed to protect us from threats, may misperceive feedback as the threat.
And that’s a problem because the real threat is the behavior or event that triggered the need for feedback in the first place. So, stop at the first sign when a response starts bubbling up. Tamp it down. Don’t react to the feedback. Instead, bide your time; listen to the whole message. Then choose your response.
Say thank you
Before you get on your high horse and start telling the other person how misguided his or her feedback is, look at the other person in the eye and deliver a heartfelt ‘Thank you!’ If the feedback was important, your colleague will have put a lot of thought and effort into drumming up the courage to tell you. Chances are this person cares enough about you and your relationship to share the message. So the least you can do is acknowledge it and say thank them.
Look for the one percent grain of truth
When we receive tough feedback we tend to see it as a complete character assassination. ‘You’re late’ is heard as ‘You are always late,’ which results in our silently listing events where we were not only on time, but early. See, what happens is that we move from listening to defending ourselves. Instead of taking the feedback as the absolute truth that applies all the time, look for the one percent grain of truth. Build from there.
Seek out the patterns
It’s easy to dismiss feedback that doesn’t match our own self-perception and move on to the next thing without a second thought. Bur before you do that, think back and reflect.
Have you ever received this feedback before? How about something similar? If this is the first time you have ever had this feedback, and then let it go. If it sounds even vaguely familiar, then stop and listen up. One point of view has just turned into a pattern. And patterns can help or hinder you.
Listen with curiosity
Quiet your inner voice and listen hard to the message. Ask yourself ‘Why would someone think that of me?’ By asking, you’ll see your question soften your amygdala’s ability to trigger that fight or flight response. Remember, feedback is the answer to a problem you may or may not have known you have. If you are curious, you can become engaged in the conversation. You don’t have to agree with the feedback or act on it. But if you aren’t curious, you won’t hear it, you won’t be able to process it, and the gift of feedback will be lost to you.
Questions enable you to clarify what you have heard, to identify the specific behaviors that resulted in the unintended impact, and hence truly hear the feedback.
Apply these tips, and you will be less likely to feel caught off guard the next time someone provides you with some unexpected feedback. While tough feedback is never our first choice, it’s something that can accelerate our success if we hear it.
Learn how to receive feedback graciously, and you will be in a better position to take the appropriate action to accelerate your career and ensure that your reputation as the consummate professional continues to shine through. Entrepreneur