Karolina Numminen
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Rethinking Feedback Part 4: How to Receive Feedback Well

Welcome to the final part of my feedback series! Today, I’m talking about the art of receiving feedback. Chances are, you've got a boss and maybe a team, and you find yourself often on the "getting feedback" end of things. I’ve collected a bunch of practical tips and new ways of looking at feedback to help you get the most out of it. So, let's dive in! 

Come prepared

In part two of this series, I talked about the importance of self-evaluation. If you missed it, you might want to catch up here. So, when you walk into a feedback session, be prepared. Know what you hope to gain from it and spend some time beforehand reflecting on your own performance. 

This way, you ensure the feedback session is a 2-way discussion, where you bounce around perspectives and ideas, which is ultimately more productive than listening to someone’s monologue and not remembering half of it 5 minutes later.  

What Are You Really Asking For?

We all have this habit of asking for feedback almost reflexively. You know those feedback forms you have to fill out before leaving an event? I often think, "Why not just look around the room? That'll tell you a lot." Are people engaged or zoning out? Are they scribbling notes or scrolling through Instagram?

Same goes for work. You probably have some measurable goals or KPIs, right? These metrics can already tell you a bit about how you're doing. But still, especially when you're new, you might ask people, "Hey, how am I doing?" So, before you go asking for generic feedback, consider what you really want to know. Instead of asking, "Can you give me some feedback?" try asking specific questions like:

  • "I feel like that meeting didn't go well. What's your take?"
  • "How do you think I handled situation X?"
  • "I've been really down about how this project is going. Am I on the right track?"
  • "What are three things you think I do well? I could use a confidence boost."
  • "If I want that promotion next year, what should I focus on?"

Being specific about what you want to gain from a feedback session will ensure you will actually get what you need. So don’t wait for that annual performance review, which is complex but also daunting. Ask frequently for the right kind of feedback from the people you trust.  

Be Ready to Listen

Once you've opened the feedback floodgates, be prepared to actually listen. And yes, sometimes you'll hear stuff you don't like. When that happens, your first reaction might be emotional. That's okay; just acknowledge those feelings and try to look (and hear) past them.

Remember, most people aren't trained to give perfect feedback. So, even if they use words that sting, try to understand what they're really trying to say. You can also let them know if their wording is making it difficult for you to receive their feedback constructively. 

And although feedback should be a dialogue, not a monologue, defending yourself, fighting back, or pointing out that the feedback giver hasn’t really excelled in that area either won’t get you very far. Those urges are natural but try to resist acting on them. 

Take a Breath

Was the feedback session after a stressful meeting? Emotions could be running high. Maybe hold off on the feedback discussion until things have cooled down. 

Let's face it: it's tough to be calm and rational all the time, although we should strive for it. So, if you are not there yet, the best you can do is recognize your emotional state and let the other person know when would be a better time to talk things through.

It's Okay to Say 'Not Now'

Related to the previous point, If someone comes at you with unsolicited feedback, you can say, "No, thank you." Maybe you're not in the right emotional state to process it, or perhaps you need time to think things over yourself. A simple "I'd like to evaluate the situation myself first, and then we can discuss it" is perfectly fine.

By owning the time and place of your feedback session, you are helping both of you have a more productive discussion and avoid harming your relationship. 

The Power is Yours

Receiving feedback is an active process. You decide how you react and what to do with the information. Think about the other person's intentions—do they want to help you grow or just vent? Remember, you're not a robot that has to automatically update based on new input. Reflect on the feedback, weigh it against your thoughts and values, and decide your next steps. That's the beauty of being human—we get to choose how we evolve.

Karolina Numminen

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Wrapping it up

So, effectively receiving feedback is really about taking the driver's seat in your development. You decide what feedback to take on board, how to interpret it, and what actions to take going forward. This active, thoughtful approach turns feedback from something you 'have to deal with' into a powerful tool for personal and professional growth.

There you go! Now, you're not just ready to receive feedback; you've got the tools and the know-how. So go ahead—ask, listen, reflect, and grow.

Karolina Numminen
Karolina Numminen

Hi there!

Thank you for reading! I'm Karolina, a career coach with a passion for helping people have fulfilling and successful career journeys. I love writing about all things work and sharing the insights I’ve gained from years of coaching clients.

I would love to connect with you on LinkedIn and continue the conversation. I’m always curious about different professions and career paths!


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