Five tips on how to receive feedback

When receiving is harder than giving

Five tips on how to receive feedback

Positive feedback can give us confidence and negative feedback can give us valuable insights into our shortcomings. Whether you are an individual contributor or engineering manager, learning to embrace feedback can accelerate your growth.

While we often learn how to give feedback, today we focus on the other side. I’ll share five practical tips that help you embrace feedback. I refer to the person who is giving feedback as the speaker. The speaker can be anyone, e.g. your friend, a peer at work or your manager.

  1. Listen to understand, not to respond
    Have you ever been preparing a response in your head while the speaker is talking? Try to become aware of this. If you catch yourself, refocus on active listening. People will notice when you are not. The same way you know when someone else is not listening. Active listening helps you gain insight into what the person is sharing and hopefully avoids becoming too defensive. Focus 100% on the person. Don’t allow your phone or laptop to distract you. You can repeat the feedback to show your understanding, however not to question what was said.
  2. At this moment, it’s not about being right
    Feedback is not up to debate, especially if you asked for it. If you want to share more context and explain your actions, hold these thoughts to yourself. You can come back to them when you will reflect later. It takes courage to give feedback. Show appreciation. If you realize you made a mistake and feel sorry, acknowledge and share it.
  3. When there is feedback, there is more feedback
    Remember that constructive feedback might only scratch the surface. When someone is giving you feedback, invite them to share more. Treat feedback as a gift. You like gifts, right? Why not ask for more? Continue with “Is there anything else you can share with me?” or “What else comes to your mind?”
  4. Reflect and change behaviors
    After your feedback session is over, it’s time to reflect. You learned new information about yourself. Now it’s time to shape a new version of yourself. How do you envision yourself and how should your behaviors change? Whether you want to change and if so how, depends on you. This is the hardest part. The received feedback is the input and the target behaviors the desired outcomes.
  5. Let the speaker judge the desired outcomes
    Assume someone has told you that you are frequently interrupting others in meetings. You’ve done a great job adjusting your behaviors if the same person comes to you and shares that you are not interrupting anymore. After you’ve had time to reflect on and implement the feedback, invite the speaker to determine whether you have changed.

What other tips come to your mind? Let me know.

About me
Masa has worked in various engineering leadership positions and is currently VP Engineering at Parloa. He’s a leader and athlete sharing his learnings on leadership, management and health.