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Thanks for the Feedback – How to Receive Feedback Well

Submitted by Amanda Dumsch February 11, 2019

Maybe you are not sure how to process your latest performance review at work, or maybe an offhand critical comment has left you ruminating. In any shape or form, receiving feedback is crucial to one’s personal and professional development; however, it can also be extremely challenging to hear.

Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen are the authors of Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (book available for checkout at the OITE Library). They have spent over a decade working with corporations, nonprofits, governments, and families – all with the purpose of discovering what helps people learn and what gets in the way of a growth mindset.

Within this blog, we have discussed difficult conversations at work and tools to help you structure the feedback you give, but we haven’t focused on a very simple question:

What makes feedback so hard?

Most advice books are focused on instructing you how to give feedback effectively and productively, but fail to focus on the act of receiving feedback. With this in mind, it is important to note two basic human needs: the first of which is that we want to be accepted and loved for how we are now; the second of which is that we also want to learn and grow. In thinking about the first point, it is important to recognize what makes you feel appreciated. For some it might be a public recognition or informal words of affirmation, while for others it could be an act of service and somebody willing to help you out with a favor. If you go into any feedback feeling underappreciated, then it could be a potential obstacle to how effectively you hear any coaching/feedback.

According to the book, there are three types of feedback – ACE.

Appreciation – Feedback focused on giving thanks and encouraging a person to keep up what they are doing.

Coaching – Feedback focused on showing you how you can do something better whether that is improving a skill or fixing an imbalance in a relationship.

Evaluation – Feedback focused on explaining or clarifying how you stand up next to others or against expectations. Coaching and evaluative feedback can be triggering and Heen/Stone noted three triggers that can be a challenge to receiving feedback well.

Truth Triggers (Challenge to See) – We often view feedback as wrong or unfair, feel defensive, and completely reject the information we are given.

Relationship Triggers (Challenge of We) – We are speculative of the person and/or relationship with the person giving the feedback and view the information as faulty.

Identity Triggers (Challenge of Being Me) – An aspect of the feedback causes us to question ourselves or our abilities and can stifle our growth identity.

AAUW has a variety of online resources for improving your conversations. Included in this are preparation worksheets that can help guide you though a feedback audit of yourself. In next week’s blog we will focus on insightful questions to help you understand more clearly how you receive feedback.

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