“Can I give you some feedback?” Who among us doesn’t dread that question? I know I myself get a bit anxious when someone asks if they can offer me some feedback. My mind instantly starts thinking of things I might have done wrong or how I may have failed in some way.

In talking with colleagues and friends I’ve heard a range of responses, but all have a common thread—fear. Fear of failure or disappointment in the work completed, fear of revealing vulnerability you thought you had hidden, fear of being judged. The word feedback can often bring feelings of embarrassment, guilt or inadequacy. It seems to be ingrained in us from an early age to think feedback is always negative. I asked my 16-year-old daughter this same question and she responded by saying, “We tend to fear feedback because we are afraid whoever is giving us the feedback will shut us down and make us feel like a failure, and that is one of man’s greatest fears. Failure.”

The ironic part is that feedback, when done right, offers an opportunity to grow and improve rather than guess what people think of us, our abilities or our work. As another friend stated, “Feedback is critical for me to see how things are working or not.”

So how can we open our minds to receiving and learning from feedback? Here are a few points that have helped me along the way:

  • Do not take the feedback personally and always assume positive intent. This is extremely difficult for many, but if you assume the person offering the feedback is truly trying to help it’s easier to feel grateful instead of defensive. Listen without judgement and then thank them for being honest.
  • WTF. No, it doesn’t mean what you think! WTF stands for “Wow, That’s Fascinating!” This tip prevents me from taking things to personally. Think about the situation from the other person’s point of view and ask questions. It may not be an accurate reflection of who you are, but it is always an accurate reflection of how you’re perceived. I recently had a situation where I was not as successful in an area of our business as I would have liked. I received some feedback from a manager who felt I was nonchalant and didn’t care about my lack of success. I realized this was because I didn’t share with him the actions I was taking to improve. Did he jump to conclusions about what was in my heart? Yes, but I was also responsible for my own communication. After hearing this feedback I was able to share with him my plans and actions I was taking for success and our business relationship has improved immensely.
  • Don’t assume feedback is going to be negative. One colleague shared a situation where she received positive feedback regarding her performance that she wasn’t expecting. This type of feedback has bolstered her confidence and helped her to grow and be more successful.
  • Ask for feedback! Be clear that you want honest feedback and let them know they are doing you a favor by being truthful.
  • Write down what they say. This shows that you are taking their feedback seriously and gives them a little time to think about what else they may want to share.

The bottom line is truth may be hard to hear, but it can be an invaluable resource to improve your work or behavior and give you that needed edge.

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By: Sherry Weaver
Business Women’s Forum Steering Committee Member
Park City Mountain Resort, Sales Manager
Connect with her at linkedin.com/in/sherrybleyleweaver