Taking Feedback

Folks talk a lot about the importance of giving feedback, less so about how to take it.

I recently met Neil Denny who’s a smart guy with beautiful eyes (bear with me…), well worth following. Among other things we chatted about:

  • Better conflict leads to better collaboration
  • The importance of being able to show your workings out, not just the answer
  • Being comfortable about not knowing what you are doing, which reminded me of this post

And we spoke about feedback and how to take it. Neil talked about the value of ‘Thank you’ when getting feedback which I’m starting to practice much more. I don’t take positive feedback very well and I need to learn to do it better. After all if someone’s taken the time and effort to feedback to me on a job well done I should be able to thank them and take it in the spirit the feedback is offered.

Neil puts it much better than I can so I’m going to hand the rest of this post over to him:

Best advice I ever got about feedback was to say thank you when receiving it, regardless of whether that feedback is good or (am I allowed to say it?) bad.

Thank you helps us immensely in both situations.

When feedback is good we can get embarrassed, bashful. We get clumsy and splutter out something like “Oh, really, no, it’s nothing, you know, I, er, no, really.” We can risk giving out a message that says “Your feedback is meaningless to me” or “I’m going to dismiss your kind words as irrelevant.”

When feedback is bad then “Thank you” saves us from rushing to defend ourselves which is rarely a good idea. Say thank you even if you do not agree with the feedback. Feedback is not saying “I agree.” Take the feedback and ponder it.

The bad feedback is where we can really learn and stretch ourselves.

I came across a recent unexpected situation where this lesson also helped.

I was delivering a full day session in America last week. During the lunch break a gentleman came up to ask me a question. He got a few words into his question and then interupted himself with this comment;

“Wow, you’ve got beautiful eyes.”

I was panicking. What did he say? Did I hear that right? What do I do with that? What am I supposed to say now? The feedback lesson then popped up in my memory and I responded “Thank you.” Nice and simple. “Now, you were saying…?”

“Thank you” really is your flexible feedback friend.

photo credit

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

3 thoughts on “Taking Feedback”

  1. Great post Doug – I agree that we see and hear a lot about how to give feedback – I usually try to explore feedback from both sides in workshops and coaching. Many people tell me they don’t get enough feedback – when we look at how they typically respond to feedback (especially positive!) it usually helps them see how their discomfort discourages it! A simple ‘thank you’ is a helpful and encouraging response. I must have a good look at Neil’s eyes …

  2. Can’t wait to see Neil’s eyes.
    Also, yes, I take your point about being kind and thoughtful in receiving feedback as well as giving it. Point well made sir. I will make more effort on that front.

  3. Thanks Margaret and Flora, having this conversation with Neil has been helpful for me, and it’s great when I read of the benefits of sharing useful stuff with others.

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