Even positive feedback can feel like someone is judging you.
All feedback, including negative feedback, requires a gracious answer.
If someone says to you, “May I offer you some feedback,” or even tougher, “May I offer you some constructive criticism?” What is your reaction? How do you respond? Does your stomach give a little lurch? It is normal to flinch when someone is about to give you unrequested feedback.
Receiving Feedback Graciously
Let’s start with receiving positive, but unasked for, feedback. You look nice today. That was a great speech. Good job!
Some of us feel embarrassed. What have you learned? Do you believe that person was sincere? What can you do with that information? No matter how you feel about their comment, thank them and then ask for some details.
Many complementors don’t have more to say and were hoping to just be on their way. For them, say thank you and move on.
But if they are willing to engage and offer more, you can say:
‘Thank you for your kind words. It would be extra helpful to me if you can think about and share a bit more, such as, what part stood out for you? Was there something you feel you took away, want to be sure you remember, or will share with others? Why or how did that resonate for you? I would like to be able to repeat what is working and eliminate what isn’t.’
If this is a speech or presentation or document, you can show your mind map or outline and ask about the parts.
What can be especially helpful is to use the same technique with unsolicited negative feedback.
What parts prompted your reaction? What would you change or leave out if you were me?
If the words sting a bit, take a deep breath, then say something like, “Thank you, I need to think about that. May I get back to you?”
Sometimes you are able to seek feedback from people who didn’t offer it on their own. Get the most out of your ask and make it easy for them to comply.
Be as specific as possible of what you would like to know. Of course, ask them to add anything else they noticed but you didn’t think to ask about. They will be to focus their attention and thoughts and you will get more helpful feedback.
What if you are offering a compliment? Good job! Remember, they need to know what was good. The part about … really stood out for me.
How can anyone know how to keep or enhance the good parts if they don’t know which ones they are?
With negative feedback you want to be sure to ask if they would like you to share some of your thoughts. Of course, whether or not they change something is up to them, but your ideas may be helpful. To be most helpful, be specific and offer more than one idea or option to change or fix remembering that it is your opinion that you are sharing and their prerogative as to whether to use what you are offering.
Say Thank You
Most important, when receiving any kind of feedback, say thank you. Say thank you whether the comments were positive or negative. Say thank you for taking the time to listen (or read), think about and share with you. Whether or not you agree with their comments, hearing them can give you something to ponder, and possibly, an improvement.