How to Process Feedback From Your Boss or Colleague Constructively

Sara Davis avatar
on May 26#best-practices
Taking constructive feedback

Feedback: the one thing that can be both super helpful, yet infuriating at the same time. When it comes to feedback in the workplace, it’s important to make sure to keep your composure and process the feedback before reacting. Getting feedback, especially when you know in advance it’s coming can cause your heart to race. This is a normal reaction. You may have anxiety, or be nervous about what you are going to hear. Don’t panic. Here are some tips to help you remain calm and collected for your next 1:1 meeting, or any other type of feedback-loop in the workplace.

Focus on your breath, and the moment

Before hearing feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, it’s important to stay level-headed. If you know you are about to receive a critique of some sort make sure you stay grounded. One way to do this is to practice mindfulness techniques before you meet. While this might seem silly, it’s a proven way to ground yourself and focus on the moment. Try this:

Look around: name 5 things you can visually see around you (it can be in your head or out loud.)

Feel around: what are 5 things you physically touch around you (notice how they feel)

Listen: what 5 sounds can you hear right now around you

Breathe: take deep breaths, and smell what’s around you. Are there certain aromas or scents you notice? 

Whether you get the chance to take a few seconds to ground yourself or not, it is important to hold yourself in a state that is open, grounded, and ready for feedback. The last thing you want to do is come across as insulting, defensive, or a bad listener. Here are some tips to do just that. 

Focus on the feedback, not yourself

It’s not always easy to hold your initial responses back. But one good practice to not internalize the feedback is to listen to the feedback itself, without focusing on yourself. Hear the feedback just as it is and don’t associate it with yourself. Later on, when you are done with work, you can take the chance to internalize it and see if you agree with it or not, but in the moment, hear it just as feedback. By avoiding associating negative feedback directly with yourself, you can just hear the feedback and process it later.

Other ways to keep your emotions in check

You’re always going to have feedback in different types of context. Whether it’s your professional or personal life, here are some strategies to help you navigate them. 

Listen with an open mind. Know that 9/10 times feedback is meant to help you improve, not as a personal insult. Listen to hear how you can improve and focus on the work at hand. By keeping an open mind, and listening for helpful tips, you can take heed of any valid feedback and focus on ways to improve yourself.

Breathe before responding. Before you automatically respond to any type of criticism, take a breath, and make sure you are responding appropriately. It is totally okay to take a pause to come up with an articulate and appropriate response.

Don’t be afraid to clarify. While listening to your feedback, make sure you understand the intent behind the words. If you have any questions or need clarification - don’t be afraid to ask. Even the most positive feedback can be misinterpreted. Make sure you leave no questions unanswered.

Be humble. As hard as it is sometimes, staying humble is key. Thank your colleague or boss for their feedback, and take time to evaluate it later. Whether you agree or disagree with the feedback, showing respect and that you value another person’s feedback goes a long way.

Take valid advice. Don’t let feedback that is valid go in one ear and out the other. Sure, it might not be fun to hear at the time, but if it’s valid - it’s valid. Take the steps to start improving on these action items, and show that you heard and understood the advice, and are willing to implement changes to improve.

How do you handle feedback at work? Are there any tips and tricks you’ve learned along the way? We’d love to hear them. Send us a line or a tweet for your chance to get featured on our blog. 

And remember, feedback isn’t a bad thing! Feedback helps us improve and grow. By learning how to manage your emotions and respond appropriately to criticism you will be able to progress and grow in your career much easier. 

Here’s to a more productive, feedback-accepting you!

Looking for other ways to manage feedback? In this list of best slack apps, you’ll find a lot of valuable HR integrations that can help your organization streamline the feedback loop.

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