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The Challenging Art of Receiving Effective Feedback

Personal feedback has the potential to act as a powerful tool to facilitate learning.  In receiving feedback – both positive and challenging – we, as individuals, are afforded the opportunity to become aware of how our behaviour is perceived by others.  

Increased awareness of our behaviour and crucially, its impact on others, gives us the opportunity to glance at ourselves through the eyes of others.  As Robert Burns says “O would some power the giftie gie us to see ourselves as others see us”.

The following tips are intended to help you receive feedback in a way that makes receiving feedback as an art intended to maximise learning.  The intent behind receiving feedback is essentially to support us to grow in personal awareness.  The intent is not focused or fixated on facilitating change.  Instead, change is likely to follow as a consequence of increased awareness and conversely change is likely to be resisted if our aim in giving feedback is so that the other behaves differently in order to accommodate our own personal preferences i.e. ‘if you weren’t you, my life would be so much easier’.

 Guidelines for receiving feedback:

  1. Invite feedback – Ask those you trust and respect to offer you feedback on specific aspects of yourself and your behaviour.  Don’t place the other on a pedestal but rather see them as being able to give you a different perspective from outside of yourself.  Additionally, don't rely on feedback from a single source and ensure you gain multiple perspectives.

  2. Be open – simply pay attention to what you are hearing.  Don’t assume you already know what the other person has to say.  If necessary, ask for clarification.

  3. Do not justify yourself – your aim is to hear how the other person experiences you.  Resist the compulsion to justify, defend or explain yourself.  Say ‘thanks’, explain you will consider the feedback and move on.

  4. Be curious about what’s evoked in you – notice what emerges in your mind, body and emotions as you listen to feedback – this applies to both positive as well difficult feedback.

  5. Perceive all feedback as an offer – appreciate what you are offered and be mindful that you needn’t swallow it whole.  You might even reject the feedback entirely, since it’s only a perspective.  Carefully consider the value of the feedback and decide what is for you and what isn’t.  If you persistently reject feedback, this might suggest you are not actually that open.  The intent is to appreciate the opportunity to learn and honour the generosity of the person giving you feedback.  After all, being honest is a risk and takes courage.

  6. Work the feedback – Discover what is useful for you in the feedback.  Do not quickly change your behaviour based on what you have heard but decide carefully what learning is there for you and plan a way forward that means you can experiment with new ways of being.

  7. Own your own feelings evoked by the feedback – be careful of blaming the person offering you the feedback if you have a strong emotional response.  The other can’t ‘make you angry’ rather, you allow their feedback to evoke anger in you.  These are your feelings, own them and be cautious of apportioning blame.

  8. Review – once you have decided how you will experiment with your behaviour, be sure to give quality time to reviewing your experiments so that you maximise the potential learning.


2 Comment(s)

Some feedback on your feedback post... I found it a really useful reminder, very succinct. I particularly like the emphasis on personal behaviour/responsibility, as opposed to a focus on specific tricks and techniques. Thank you.

Nick Wright / 31-Jul-2013 07:41 PM

Nick, a blog on feedback generates some feedback - how neat! Thanks for your comment and I'm glad you found it useful. It's interesting you note the absence of any tricks or techniques. I myself didn't see that in writing the blog - that's the power of receiving feedback. Your comment affirms my belief in personal behaviour/responsibility when receiving feedback. It's also useful to get some insight on how my writing is received by the reader so I appreciate you taking the effort to reach out.

Paul Cummings / 01-Aug-2013 06:51 AM

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