Responding to constructive feedback

Can you recall the last time you received some constructive feedback whether at work or in your personal life?   And how did you react to it?

Let’s face it – getting feedback, especially that which is developmental and in the ‘needing some work category’, isn’t always easy.

No matter how well intended it is, we don’t always embrace negative/ constructive feedback as well as we do positive feedback.

With feedback, which is less than glowing, the brain’s emotional centre  is triggered, leaving us in a reactive and  threatened.

And yet feedback remains a powerful source of both our personal and professional learning.   Over the years I have seen people react in all sorts of ways to feedback – whether solicited or unsolicited.

Identifying your default pattern

Can you relate to any of these?  Think of the last time you received feedback, what did you do?

1) Emotional reaction

Initially, there is an emotional reaction. Here are some common reactions:

  • Anger and annoyance – “How dare they…!”
  • Wounded and injured – Feeling attacked – “That was most unfair…”
  • Sad and sorry – “I am disappointed …

2) Resistance

These are thoughts which minimise or fight against any possibility of the feedback being true.

  • Denial – ‘This is not true.”
  • Attacking the feedback provider or the information – “They don’t really know me.”
  • Ego response – “I don’t care what they think, anyway!”

3)  An accepting attitude

  • Openness – “Maybe I can learn something here.”
  • Opportunity – “This is a good opportunity to find out about something I wasn’t aware of  before.”
  • Gift – “I’m grateful for this gift!”

Often it is a mixture of these responses as we react first and then see the the gems later!

Next time you find yourself reacting in a defensive and emotional manner to feedback, remind yourself that this is  just part of the process.

And remember: Great leaders are not always born. They  have  often forged their character  through the trials, tribulations  and hardships they have endured.

Getting feedback is very much part of leadership stories. And accepting feedback with grace –  especially where there is good intent – can be an excellent teacher.

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Jasbindar Singh

Jasbindar is a business psychologist, leadership excellence coach and author of 'Get your Groove Back'.