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3 things to understand about yourself if feedback is to stick


Feedback is something that we desperately need if we’re to continuously improve our skills and knowledge.  Whilst the receipt of positive feedback is something we crave, many of us are much less adept when it comes to receiving negative feedback.

Which is kinda bad, as negative feedback is often critical in our attempts to improve.  After all, it’s no use only hearing about the good things you do, right?

Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen suggest there are three things we can all accept about ourselves that will make the receipt of feedback, even the negative kind, more palatable.

We all make mistakes

Whilst the making of mistakes has seldom been as fashionable as it is today, I’m sure many of us still have a problem with doing so.  It makes us feel bad and to doubt our skills.  Of course, mistakes are inevitable, and even the best people will make them.

Accepting this basic fact will help to jolt us out of the fight or flight mode we often enter when we receive negative feedback.  By accepting that mistakes will happen, we place ourselves in a better mindset to learn from them and move on.

Your intentions are complicated

Whilst making mistakes is much more acceptable, and there have been numerous articles, papers and books estolling the virtues of experimenting, learning and so on.  What doesn’t often get as much attention however are our intentions.

When we get criticized, we often get criticized for our intentions, which naturally causes us to fight back and propose that our intentions were pure.  They might well have been, but it’s also quite probable that they weren’t entirely so.

Sometimes we’ll cut corners or act out of self-interest.  Just as we will always make mistakes, it’s also very likely that we won’t always act honourably.  Accepting that fact will allow us to take on board feedback much more readily.

You contributed to the problem

We’re back to common ground with this last one.  When we receive negative feedback, it’s incredibly easy to try and pass the blame on to someone, or something, else.  There is always someone else we can blame, or some extenuating circumstances we can use to absolve ourselves of responsibility.

You see, when it’s us that is the wronged person, it’s the easiest thing in the world to ignore feedback that comes out way.  The reality, as I’m sure you know, is usually somewhat different.  Most of the time, we’ve contributed to the problem in some way, and the sooner we accept that this is likely to have happened, the sooner we can actually absorb that feedback that we receive.

None of us are perfect, and thinking that we are is often the biggest barrier to accepting feedback and making improvements.  Take these three things on board and you’re likely to be in a much better place the next time feedback heads your way.


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