Feedback is something we give and receive in our lives, and both can be challenging. There are several easy and effective strategies for delivering and receiving feedback that can transform these conversations from difficult to rewarding. Feedback dialogues that are open, honest and thoughtful can provide a great opportunity for learning and even serve to deepen relationships rather than create conflict or hard feelings.
When receiving feedback, it is important to remember that ALL feedback is an opinion provided by another person from their perspective. It is not reality, nor is it the truth. Simply listen to what the other person is saying, ask questions if the message is not clear, be open to what they are saying, and be honest with yourself—resist the urge to jump into defensive mode. Acknowledge that you hear them and thank them for sharing their thoughts. Even if you disagree, they were courageous enough to share with you, and what they shared is their perspective. A great response to feedback is, “Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me—I appreciate your candor and am going to think about everything you shared.” There is nearly always something valuable to be learned from feedback if you stay open and recognize the experience as an opportunity to learn, grow and understand another person’s perspective.
Giving feedback is a skill that can be practiced, and when done thoughtfully, can improve relationships and be a positive experience for both the giver and the receiver. It’s important to consider and plan your feedback rather than just lashing out. Thinking about an upcoming difficult conversation and being clear in your mind about why you are having the conversation, and how you hope for your feedback to have successful results, can make a big difference.
Remember when you are providing feedback, despite how strongly you may feel about something, it is still just your opinion. Coming from a place of “I” clarifies that this is your perspective, and prevents the receiver from feeling attacked or criticized. Statements that start with “I felt upset and frustrated when…” or “My understanding was…” or “My experience was…” open the door to a more positive and conversation, because they focus on your feelings, not the other person’s actions.
One often forgotten but valuable piece of feedback we should try to include is gratitude and appreciation; not only into the feedback conversation—but into our daily lives. Many times we can be quick to judge what others are doing wrong or not doing at all, and we forget to be appreciative for the small things that make a big difference. Really noticing and appreciating the people in our everyday lives is the forerunner to having productive conversations that can create an environment of personal growth, harmony and empowerment.
- Practice just listening. So often when we are receiving feedback we are already busy preparing in our minds our defensive response. Practice just listening and looking for what you can learn from what is being said—even if you disagree. Part of being a good listening is letting the other person know you heard what they said and that you appreciate their thoughts.
- Give feedback from a place of “I.” Try to catch yourself when you find yourself using the word “you.” “You” comes from a place of victim and blame, and immediately places the other person in a defensive mode. Even if you have started a sentence with the word “you”—stop, and start over with “I.”
- Be appreciative every day. A wonderful practice is to wake up in the morning and consider who you can show appreciation to. Throughout your day, share heartfelt appreciation with people around you, even for the smallest acts. It is amazing how this one small act can shift an environment of conflict into one of positivity and harmony.