Strategies to Help You Receive Feedback
By: Kamaljit "Sonya" Virdi, Ph.D. | May 19, 2023
Feedback is an important exchange that happens between friends, colleagues, relatives, and romantic partners. When successful, feedback is an opportunity to feel more connected and better understood by another person. Positive feedback can be reassuring because it highlights our contributions, underscores our strengths, and appreciates our thoughtfulness. However, constructive, or critical feedback is harder to hear. And, for some, it raises stress and anxiety. I hope that this article helps you feel more open to feedback, especially if you are sensitive to the opinions of others.
Below are helpful strategies to overcome some of the common problematic thoughts and responses to feedback.
Strategy 1: Reflect, don’t ruminate
If you spend a lot of time thinking and talking about the feedback you receive, you probably feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and discouraged. Although it’s helpful to reflect on feedback to grow and learn, spending excessive time and effort talking to friends about how wrong the person was who gave you feedback is unproductive. Our past experiences with feedback can impact how we cope with it in the present. To learn more about your response to feedback, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Did you receive overly critical feedback in the past?
2. In the past, what happened when you made mistakes?
3. Did you ever have an opportunity to share your perspective when there was miscommunication?
The answers to these questions might help you understand why you are sensitive to feedback. Remember that feedback is a part of all relationships, and you are not alone if you’ve received critical feedback.
Strategy 2: Be curious, don’t assume
Be aware of your tendency to jump to conclusions or make assumptions when you receive feedback. This can create undue stress for yourself. For example, if you receive feedback to be a better team player, you might think “I’m going to get fired,” or, “My boss hates me.” Or, when your partner says they feel underappreciated lately, you think “They don’t love me,” or “I’m an awful person.”
Interpreting feedback as a criticism of your inherent characteristics (“I’m bad”), is a common mistake. Instead, focus on the behaviors that are discussed in the feedback. Ask for clarification and for specific examples. With more information, you can assess the situation more accurately and better understand the feedback.
It is important to recognize that feedback is a valuable tool for growth and improvement, and it is not a reflection of your worth as a person.
Strategy 3: Be open, not defensive
If you panic or worry when you receive feedback, you are likely reacting rather than responding to it. When you react to feedback, you may be tempted to provide excessive amounts of feedback in return. It’s okay if you have something to say, but it is unhealthy when it becomes a game of comparing who has hurt who more. You might be tempted to defend your actions which makes you appear closed off to feedback. Unknowingly, you may make the person giving you feedback feel unheard.
To be more open to feedback, slow down and take a deep breath. Focus your energy on active listening. Try to understand the feedback, how it’s impacting the person providing it to you, and what they are asking from you. Ask them how you can improve. This will help focus your energy on making positive changes and learn from the experience. Save your feedback for another day. If you receive the same feedback across time and from multiple people, it is especially important to investigate it further.
Receiving feedback can be hard for a variety of reasons. It makes us feel vulnerable, challenges our sense of self, and questions our abilities. To overcome these emotional barriers, we must practice being self-aware and remain open. I hope these strategies help you learn more about yourself and be more comfortable receiving feedback.
If you experience intense feelings of stress and anxiety about receiving feedback, you may benefit from meeting with a professional San Diego Psychologist at Therapy Changes to further explore your thoughts and reactions. You and your therapist will work together to learn how to be more self-aware, open-minded and view feedback as an opportunity to learn and grow. Contact Us today to learn more about how therapy can help and to schedule an appointment.