What happens when the tables are turned? When you’re the receiver of feedback (positive or negative)? If you struggle sometimes to listen with an open mind, you’re not alone.
We all have defenses, and sometimes they get the best of us, but the following three strategies will help you listen with an open mind—so you can maximize your potential as an employee and as a human being.
Regardless of whether your colleague has zero tact or they do everything perfectly, you may feel your defenses kicking in when they sit you down to give you feedback. So, what do you do when that happens?
The first step is to be mindful of what you’re feeling. Whenever we feel threatened, we snap back and defend ourselves. At times like these, it’s best to pause and reflect, without responding right away. Usually, our first thoughts aren’t our best thoughts when we feel threatened, so try to explore their point of view with an open mind.
You may discover, after sitting with your emotions for a bit, that your colleague has some valid points. Or maybe not? In either case, nothing good will come from a snappy comeback. Zingers only work for politicians, and that’s not what we’re going for here.
Let’s say they’ve totally missed the mark. They’re acting crazy and you know it. What do you do then? Thank them for taking the time to offer you feedback.
You’re not blindly agreeing with their assessment—you’re affirming their effort to give feedback, and feedback is something you need in order to grow.
All feedback is a gift, and by thanking them for the effort, you’re opening yourself to additional feedback in the future. And the next piece of advice they give you might be the one that transforms your relationships and takes your career (or your life) to the next level.
Plus, the person giving you the feedback will feel the benefits of actually being heard. They might decide to stay with the company longer as a result, and their experience working with you might improve.
Tip for managers and executives: it can be really hard for people to give feedback to a manager or someone who has more social power than them, so remember that if you’re on the receiving side, it’s especially important to affirm their gift of feedback when it comes from someone less powerful. It may have taken extra courage on their part to offer it.
Whenever someone gives you feedback, flag those notes and follow up at the next meeting. In between meetings, do some serious introspection and see what you can learn from the feedback, even if it’s minimal. Also, consider sharing the feedback with trusted colleagues so you can figure out whether others see your behavior in a similar light.
When the next meeting rolls around, check back in and let the feedback provider know what you learned from it and how you’ve worked to change (if that’s truly the case).
Following up will let them know that you value them, you’ve taken their feedback seriously, and it will give you a chance to finetune your efforts to improve yourself.