Do you find feedback a friend or a foe?

“Can I give you some feedback please?”
What’s it like for you when someone unexpectedly offers you feedback? How do you react?

Intellectually most of us know that feedback should be helpful, that we should treat it as a friend. The problem is, particularly if we have not gone out and invited it, feedback can feel like a foe. When it is offered, we don’t know what the other person is going to say. We don’t know what our reaction might be. Maybe from ancient times, we experience feedback as a threat. How to take the fear out of feedback is covered in this Forbes article here:

Let’s now come back to you.

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How do you personally react when someone offers your feedback?

Here are some common choices:

Fight – you defend yourself. You argue back, discount or deny the feedback, justifying your own position.

Fright – you avoid. You decline the offer of feedback. Perhaps you say to the other person “it’s not quite the right moment”, or “can we defer the conversation to another time”. Then, funnily enough, it never is quite the right time.

Appease – you defer and “suck up” towards the other person. You tell them you are incredibly grateful for the feedback. Outwardly you agree with them, although your inner world have a different story of events.

Freeze – everything suddenly goes very still within you, as if in slow motion. You hear the feedback but afterwards you can’t remember what was said, only how it made you feel.

Would you like a different, more effective option to be available to you?

When you were a child, you may remember having had a toy with a heavy weight low down in its centre. However hard you pushed the toy over, it stood back up again straight away.

This ability to come back to centre is the alternative we are offering you here. By coming back to centre you can hear the feedback productively.

We offer you three strategies posed as questions to help you get back to centre and back in charge:

Can you make the feedback feel optional?

Or can you adopt a mindset that it is. If you can, you are more likely to feel on the front foot and able to see the parts of the feedback useful to you.


Can you influence how (or where) the feedback is given?

For example, can you ask to talk in a more private place? The more assertive you are, the more likely it will be that you are calm and receive feedback as an equal in the relationship.

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Does your gut tell you their intention is genuinely to help you?

Is the feedback truly to help you, or is it something the other person wants and needs to get off their chest? This distinction can really help you engage with (or dismiss) what they have to say.

These three strategies can help you feel on the front foot when you are unexpectedly offered feedback, and help you use it in a positive way.

If you would like additional information about how to engage with feedback, you may find the book “Thanks for the Feedback” by authors Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen of help. Their video is here:

And if you want to be more proactive, increasing your self awareness from asking for feedback, there are some tips in this blog here: