Helpful tips for receiving constructive feedback

By Gale Mote | Guest Column

Let’s be truthful – no one likes to receive feedback on something they need to improve upon or change. Our brains are wired to realize we are socially dependent upon others. Alarms go off when we detect a threat, thus we may fight or flight.

While no one likes to give or receive feedback, we cannot grow without it.

Let’s review tips to help you receive feedback more effectively.

Ask for feedback. Don’t wait for others to share their thoughts and feelings. This also gives you time to prepare yourself for their response. Be intentional about what you want to learn from others and how it will help you develop.

Operate out of a growth, not a fixed, mindset. Be curious, not furious, when someone shares an observation. Ask questions – see what you can learn. Stay open to different perspectives and remember that perception is reality.

Extend yourself and build mutually satisfying relationships with others. Feedback becomes a conversation among people who care for one another. Show an interest in others, be vulnerable and trustworthy, find ways to connect and be human with one another.

Build your emotional intelligence – especially self-awareness, impulse control and empathy. Recognize how you feel when someone gives you constructive feedback: does your heart race? Do your palms sweat? Does your stomach feel queasy or your skin turn colors? When you feel it physically, engage impulse control – breathe, count to five (OK … 10) and then respond.

Listen with empathy demonstrating that you understand where others are coming from, why it matters, and how the behavior is affecting them or the team. You do not need to agree with their evaluation. Hear their concerns and be sure you are on the same page. Ask for examples to help you see the situation through their eyes.

Ask for help or ideas on how to improve. While it is best if the receiver comes up with specific solutions, sometimes they are not there. Ask, “How can I better demonstrate to the team that I am committed to the project?” or “What advice could you give me on how to better engage my team?”

Cut others slack. None of us is perfect in how we approach others or offer feedback. Our personality styles may be different affecting how we communicate. Some may come across blunt, or while others can be hypercritical. Perhaps we didn’t think things through before we engaged someone, so our emotions were not in a good place. Be patient and forgiving. You can always provide the person giving feedback your input on how the conversation went and what would make it better.

Be careful not to carry a grudge or get into payback mode. Accept feedback for what it is – helpful guidance to help us get better at what we do as leaders, team members, parents and partners. Learn what you can, make adjustments and move on.

Own it. Excuses and placing blame make you less trustworthy. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Accept feedback with a grateful heart. Say, “Thank you. Your gift is appreciated.” Feedback is a gift, right? Remember, they could have said nothing or worse, gossiped about you to your peers or tattled to the boss.

The most important person in the feedback process is the receiver. You can make or break the opportunity to benefit by how you choose to respond. Be kind, gracious, curious and calm – you’ll be pleased with the outcome. •

Gale Mote is a trainer, organizational development catalyst and coach in Cedar Rapids. Contact her at