A friend of mine just told me that he cannot accept feedback, which is something that gets in the way when you’re trying to grow a company and build cool things.
I feel his pain because I’m terrible at accepting feedback, too. But I’m better at taking feedback when I use these tricks.
Don’t respond right away.
As long as you’re not being accused of something awful, you don’t need to respond to feedback right away — or maybe ever. Sometimes the best way to receive feedback is to ignore it.
Categorize the feedback as fair or unfair.
When you’ve cooled down, categorize the feedback as fair or unfair. Would a reasonable person with a decent education and more than two dollars in her checking account hold that opinion? Does the person love you? Or is this whole thing petty? Those are important questions to ask before you move to the next step.
Determine if the feedback is right or wrong.
Someone can give you objective feedback, but it can be wrong. For example, it’s fair for your mother to advise you against getting a nose ring. First of all, it’s not 1998, and she’s worried about your career opportunities. And she is right to worry because some stodgy employer might not hire you with a nose ring. But you might not be interested in working for an employer who gives a rip about body piercings, or better yet, those companies might surprise you. You are self-aware and know the difference between right and wrong. Ask yourself if the feedback resonates with you.
Is the feedback is actionable or a waste of time?
Some feedback, even when it’s right, isn’t actionable. Telling someone to lose weight to get a job isn’t wrong based on statistics, but it’s not very actionable. (And it’s also very unreasonable and rude.) While many employers make hiring decisions based on unconscious biases, many employers are big asshats. If people tell you to lose weight for a job, you can tell them to screw themselves. Just because something is true doesn’t mean you can or should act on it.
The only way to respond to inappropriate feedback is to demand that it stop.
You know it when you hear it. Your VP makes a comment about your performance at work based on simple assumptions garnered from limited interactions at the office. A colleague gives you feedback based on your perceived abilities or lack thereof. You have a right to be angry if you receive feedback that isn’t fair, isn’t actionable and is entirely wrong. Take a breath, don’t respond right away, but don’t let it fester.
Be patient with yourself.
Finally, feedback doesn’t have to kill you. In fact, it doesn’t have to be anything more dramatic than a “blip on the radar screen” transformed into a deleted email message in your trash folder.