When it comes to receiving negative feedback, each of us reacts on its own subjective way. In most of those cases, however, the reactions are disfunctional. Some people feel mortified and inadequate, others are offended and continue to do things the way they used to, and others don’t listen at all. However, the value of giving and receiving feedback is becoming more and more prevalent in companies today: a good habit linked to Growth Mindset and expressed with the idea that feedback (negative and positive) helps us to improve and therefore, to grow.
Be always open minded
To improve ourselves based on the feedback we receive, we must firstly be open-minded. Being mentally open is something that perhaps no one can teach us. It’s something inherent in the depths of people, but it can be acquired starting, for example, from understanding what empathy means and putting it into practice. Also by overcoming bias and prejudices. Prejudice is one of the biggest obstacles to open-mindedness and there are courses and resources online to help us overcome it. Once overcome, being more empathic will also be easier. Although it should not be forgotten that empathy, as well as resilience and other competences, should be continuously developed.
Once we feel confident in ourselves as open-minded people we are ready to do an inner analysis that helps us to do our best and also to live better in our personal and working environments. Knowing how to positively accept feedback is an integral part of this analysis and of our self-improvement.
The one to one meeting and being honest
The best way to receive feedback – negative or positive – is undoubtedly to take a moment with a single person and talk to each other face-to-face in a one-to-one meeting. Feedback, especially negative feedback, given in front of other people can only be damaging and counter-productive.
Another key aspect is honesty. If I decide to give feedback to a colleague, I must be honest. Never sugarcoat it, while remaining within the limits of politeness. Sincere feedback given with kindness is certainly more effective than an opinion given in a raised tone. And it is far more effective than feedback that is softened for fear of hurting the other person.
Deepen to understand better
A good way to react immediately to feedback received from a colleague is to elaborate on what was said. Not all of us express ourselves in the same way. Some people pay more attention than others to the usage of words, others pay more importance on getting straight to the point, and so on. Therefore, when we listen to ourselves saying, “I think you have a grumpy attitude with your colleagues and it makes them uncomfortable,” let’s not stay at the words and try to analyze it in depth. Ask questions to go deeper by asking some examples, or to better explain some terms. What do you mean when you talk about grumpiness? The tones used? The absence of empathy? For example, is there a difference between a person who responds in high tones but is always present on the team or a person who tends to isolate themselves and reject teamwork.
Reacting to grow
At this point, once we have deepened the meaning of the feedback we received, we must move on to the more complex phase: “using” that feedback to self-improve. Why complex phase? Because first of all, it is difficult for everyone to admit his shortcomings. However, a good exercise can be to turn our weaknesses into personality traits that we can mold and use in our favor. Basically, let’s no longer look at them as flaws but as rough pieces of marble that, if shaped, will turn into beautiful sculptures.
Another point related to the reaction to feedback is not accepting that we have behaviors/characteristics that need to be improved and thinking that the colleague who is giving us feedback is basically a trouble-maker who is against us, who says things in his favor, etc. This is where the issue of trust arises, which is too broad to be analyzed in this article but remains an essential pillar. Open-mindedness should lead us to make a leap with the pole that makes us overcome the possible lack of trust and will make us say: “I listen to this feedback anyway, I use it for an analysis of myself and if I find that it doesn’t belong to me, I put it aside”.
One step at a time
This activity sounds like a challenging task of self-analysis that would take time and energy that we don’t have in today’s work rush. What is reported is just the overview. The ability to receive feedback and grow through it, is an aptitude that can be cultivated by proceeding step by step. It is not an exam to be passed all at once. The use of development tools can help us a lot in this life-long learning journey, as long as our outlook is future forward and positive.