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How to Take Feedback, Even When It’s Hard

How to Take Feedback, Even When It’s Hard

Getting feedback in the workplace can be a difficult experience. We each crave success, desiring praise from our leaders and peers that will make us feel recognized and valued at work. In reality, constructive criticism is doled out more often than positive feedback and plays a more significant role in the dynamics of our relationships with co-workers as well as our individual performance.

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I know how hard it can be to receive feedback. When I was working in my first job out of college, my manager sat in on one of my calls with a client. After the call ended, she told me that I needed to do a better job of conveying confidence by being less apologetic and not heightening my pitch as I ended sentences. I took her input horribly. I thought she believed that I was not cut out for the job and that I was one strike away from being let go.

Over time, I’ve built thicker skin and now use constructive criticism as a means to grow. Here are a few of the key takeaways that have helped me in shifting my mindset:

Accept your imperfections

Receiving input can be uncomfortable. If you take it personally or take it as a sign that you’re bad at your job, it will quickly affect your performance.

For example, when my manager told me that I needed to project more confidence with clients, I took the feedback as a reflection of my personality and generalized it as how others normally perceive me in most settings. This made me increasingly self-conscious and self-critical as I engaged with customers, colleagues, friends, and family.

To get over this hump, I decided to acknowledge negative thoughts when they came up, but instead of believing them, I’d come up with positive alternatives. Instead of “I don’t think I’m coming across as intelligent or experienced,” I began telling myself “I believe in my training and knowledge, I can help this client.”

Another mental shift is to accept that you’re not perfect. Whatever the case may be, it is important to embrace your imperfections and accept help so that you give yourself an opportunity to mature both professionally and personally.

>>READ MORE: How to Give Difficult Feedback in Writing

Ask for help

Is there a certain role that you’re aiming for? What are your goals for the next five years?

To ensure that you are on track to hit your objectives over time, feedback from colleagues who either work closely with you or are in roles that you desire will be critical. (A combination of both would be even better!) This will allow you to get a better idea of the skills required to be successful in those roles and understand where you need to improve in order to get there.

Here’s a tip: Want to ask for advice with confidence? Grammarly’s tone detector can let you know what tone you’re conveying in your writing so you can come across exactly as you intend.

If the peers and superiors you hope to seek feedback from are currently silent, there may be numerous reasons why. They may be shy or feel like you’ll take it the wrong way. Whatever their hesitation is, your aim should be to unravel the feedback they have to offer. To do this, you need to be honest and give a good reason for why you’d like their input.

For example, you can say something along the lines of, “I’m really eager to improve in this role. What is one thing that you think I can do to get better?”

If you frame your question with a reason, your colleague will feel more comfortable in opening up and giving you their honest thoughts.

You are also helping the colleague that you’re seeking advice from. Not only does their willingness to help make them come across as a team player, but it also gives them the chance to practice mentorship.

Follow through

Feedback carries no value if you don’t apply it.

Your first step should be to investigate it further. Ask your colleague for specific examples. Review documents, recordings, or any other relevant materials for the areas that you need to improve on.

Once you fully understand what you need to work on, you can form a plan for improving and monitoring your development over time.

It’s also worth considering that people who took the time to help you will more likely begin to pay more attention to you as a result. Out of curiosity (and their own self-interest), they will want to see whether you implemented their advice and how it improves your performance.

If you ignore your colleagues, you risk coming across as someone who is not seriously considering their opinions. As a result, the likelihood of them helping you in the future diminishes.

Feedback is a constant in the workplace. Your approach to receiving and acting on feedback will define your professional development, relationships with colleagues, and outlook on life. Take action and ensure that you are in a position to receive and process constructive criticism effectively!


Jon Gitlin is a Customer Success professional at a start-up in the East Bay Area. During his free time, he loves to watch the Warriors, go on runs, and listen to podcasts.

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