9 Ways To Get Over Your Feedback Fears

The only thing worse than hearing negative feedback is what happens if you don't hear it.

Why is feedback so powerful and essential to our success? We often fail to see in ourselves what is perfectly obvious to others. The following is a set of 9 steps that any individual can take to learn how to accept and effectively implement feedback.

Realize that feedback is a gift

Most people dread receiving feedback because they fear it will all be negative. However, these gifts give an individual guidance and direction by telling what they can do to improve and how they should do it.

If you have a negative attitude, you will miss opportunities to learn from people trying to help you. If you accept feedback as a gift, you can better incorporate what your colleagues are saying.

Recognize that feedback doesn't hurt (too much)

Well, perhaps it will make you wince for a moment or two. But recognize that feedback “tweaks” all people equally, and generally hurts only those who are unwilling to hear it. Feedback is information, and you are always free to do with it as you please. You can accept it, consider it, ignore it, or simply put it aside. Remember, the only thing worse than hearing negative feedback is the negative consequences of not hearing it.

Be aware that everyone else knows

Oftentimes, people think that when they receive feedback that these things suddenly become more apparent to others. The reality is everybody already knows it, and typically you are the only one not clued in.

The more feedback you seek after the better

A GPS system uses four different satellites to give the most accurate prediction of someone’s location. Using just one satellite will not work nearly as well. The same principle applies to feedback. Our research has found absolute, clear correlations between the effectiveness of a leader and their feedback and outcomes. That correlation only exists because leaders aggregate all the feedback they receive from a variety of individuals. Only one individual rater is not predictive; it takes the aggregate.

Look for trends rather than exceptions

Don’t overreact to isolated comments from individuals. This does not represent what all others see. When receiving feedback, acknowledge exceptions but look for trends. The exception is not the rule.

Awareness starts the change

Knowing something causes us to recognize it; acknowledge it. Most people respond to feedback by saying, “Oh I knew that—I just didn’t recognize it.” Just receiving the feedback can start the process of change.

Respond appropriately

My recommendation for responding to feedback: “Thank you. Tell me more.” If you make a habit of that you will find that people are more open with their feedback and will give it more frequently. This will benefit not only them, but you.

Following up is key

Too often we assume that by giving feedback, change will happen. It usually doesn’t. It is really what happens after giving feedback that causes change to occur. When you receive feedback, think about it and make a plan for how you will change. Ask the individual who gave you feedback to follow-up with you.

Discover and build your strengths

People are effective because of their abilities, not their disabilities. When we look at leaders we found that it wasn’t the absence of weakness that made them great, it was the presence of a few profound strengths. Look at your feedback and determine what your which strengths you can develop into excellence.

Now, let’s see what you learned. Turn to the person next to you, ask for some feedback, and follow these steps. Good luck!

Joseph Folkman is the President of Zenger Folkman and co-author of How To Be Exceptional: Drive Leadership Success By Magnifying Your Strengths, out on August 28. Grab a free ebook preview to tide you over then.

[Image: Flickr user Xavier Encinas]

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2 Comments

  • Wayne G. Fischer

    "Be aware that everyone else knows...The reality is everybody already knows it, and typically you are the only one not clued in."
    ...then..."Look for trends rather than exceptions...This does not represent what all others see."Which is it?You might have given some criteria about *useful* feedback:Objective / Specific (examples) / Timely / ActionableAnd for a model for giving constructive feedback, see pp 6-24 through 6-32 of _The Team Handbook_ (3rd ed).

  • RM

    You make a compelling case for embracing feedback. It's far better to seek and heed it than to ignore it. Without knowing how others feel or perceive you, it's nearly impossible to meet their expectations or meet your own potential.