How to Receive Personal Feedback? Tips

Performance Management (Appraisals)
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Best Practices
Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

How to Receive Personal Feedback? Tips

Even if we know intellectually that feedback from other people has many advantages (like helping us to avoid making certain mistakes again, helping us to develop our talents and ourselves as a person, over time potentially resulting in performance improvements, a better job and bigger pay), receiving feedback or criticism properly is far from easy.

According to communication experts Heen and Stone, this is caused by 3 tendencies or triggers we have as human beings to react in an emotional way:
  • TRUTH TRIGGERS. When the receiver feels the content of the advice is irrelevant, wrong or not helpful.
  • RELATIONSHIP TRIGGERS. When the receiver doesn't like or trust the person providing the feedback.
  • IDENTITY TRIGGERS: When the receiver feels the feedback is hurting the core of his/her identity.
Heen and Stone give 6 interesting tips (steps) to better receive feedback:
  1. Know your Tendencies. Do you have strong tendency to react emotionally? Do you actually DO something with feedback?
  2. Disentangle the "What from the "Who". Provided the advice makes sense, the person who is giving it is irrelevant…
  3. Sort Towards Coaching. Ask the feedback giver to go beyond "You achieved 3.8 on communication with customers" and ask: "How can I improve my communication with customers?"
  4. Unpack the Feedback. Do some analysis to better understand the feedback and don't react too quickly.
  5. Ask for Just One Thing. Don't wait for your annual performance review, but make a habit of asking people on a regular basis for one thing they think you could improve.
  6. Engage in Small Experiments. If you doubt an advice, but the downside of it is small, and the advantages should it prove to be true anyway is big, give it a try.
⇒ Do you have an additional tip to improve one's ability to receive feedback?

Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone, "Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well", Penguin, 2015.
Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone, "Find the Coaching in Criticism: The Right Ways to Receive Feedback", HBR Fall 2018, pp. 36-40.

  Aniket Deolikar
Consultant, India

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