How Well Do You Accept Feedback?

How you can score an “A” on receiving feedback.

I have always disliked the phrase, “constructive criticism.” It never sat right with me. I always thought it just seemed like a way to make yourself feel better about picking on me or someone else.

I prefer to think about feedback as simply information.

We don’t have to label it negative or positive—it’s just information that might help someone improve. It might increase someone’s awareness and help them to develop in their career. But whatever you call it, sometimes you’re going to hear things you don’t want to hear and things that may be difficult to hear. Especially when you know those things are true.

So the question at hand for employees and bosses alike is: “How do you accept feedback gracefully?

I love that word, gracefully, because that’s exactly what I want people to strive for. Here is how you can score an “A” on receiving feedback.   


First and foremost, listen to what is said. It sounds simple, but it’s amazing how often that doesn’t happen. Really listen and take it in what they are saying to you.


Don’t be defensive! Sometimes this happens verbally—defending or explaining ourselves or speaking too quickly before we have really thought it over. Other times it happens in our body language—we cross our arms to protect from what we are about to hear. The result when we close our bodies is that we also close our minds. Open up.


Listening is great, but take it a step further. Probe deeper into what is said and seek to understand. Ask for specifics to make sure you’re clear on an example so you can recall it in your mind.


After you are sure you understand the situations, confirm by summarizing them. It’s a good step to ensure your clarity.


This one might stop you in your tracks. I can just see you thinking, “But what if I don’t actually agree?” You don’t have to agree with everything that is said. Try to find and agree with something specific so the two of you are on common ground, and you can have a graceful reaction in the moment.


There’s one side of this we never think about. If you’ve ever been on the other end of this type of interaction, then you know it’s not always easy to share this kind of thing. It may be difficult to hear, but it takes courage and candor for them to bring it up in the first place. Try to remember and appreciate that.


Don’t keep the appreciation inside—voice it! Take initiative to ensure them that their feedback was appreciated and invite them to continue providing it in the future. When you have somebody who is willing to tell you valuable information, don’t let it be one and done. Leverage that source!


Finally, use the feedback they give you. Even better, circle back with the person who provided the feedback and let them know what you did with it, so they feel like their feedback was valuable.

Next time you receive feedback from someone, try to keep these steps in mind. If you can get even half of them down, you will increase your ability to not just hear the feedback gracefully, but to also put it into action.

Michelle Tillis Lederman is the author of “The Connector’s Advantage: 7 Mindsets to Grow Your Influence and Impact and CEO of Executive Essentials, a communications and management training and coaching firm. For more information, visit: and connect with her on Twitter at @mtlederman and on Linkedin.

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