How to Receive Feedback, From Whom, and What to do with it

Receiving feedback can be hard.

How can we better respond to negative feedback?

Is there a specific language to request feedback in our personal and professional life?

How should we filter those people in our lives? Whom to trust?

What makes a good feedback giver?

How not to take feedback personally?

How can we learn and grow from Feedback?

Who are our loving critics who love us no matter what and want to see the best in us?

Have you ever struggled with this? If yes, I am with you.

In this post, I interview Dr. Tasha Eurich who is an organizational psychologist, executive coach, researcher, and New York Times best-selling author. She uses science to help successful executives—from early-stage entrepreneurs to public company CEOs—achieve dramatic and measurable personal and organizational change.

Her TEDx talks have been viewed more than seven million times. As a global thought leader, Dr. Eurich has been named one of the top 30 emerging management thinkers (Thinkers50).

Now, the interview starts:

Nishant: I found one of your articles in Harvard business review that how to respond to negative feedback. So could you elaborate more on that? How can we better respond to negative feedback?

Tasha: That’s a really important question because you know, step one is actually seeking more feedback, but we have to be prepared for what we learn. And again, I always go back to science. What we discovered when we interviewed highly self-aware people who didn’t start out that way is they did several things pretty differently when it came to difficult or surprising feedback.

The first thing they did differently was — they didn’t take the feedback at face value. I think so often when we get feedback that is surprising or that we just didn’t anticipate — we think like, how have I been so wrong this whole time? I never had any idea that people saw me as ‘X’. But it’s also important to realize that feedback from one person is just one perspective.

Now, of course, if it’s your boss, for example, I would say probably you want to take that as seriously as you possibly can, but let’s say it’s a colleague or a friend. The first step there is to figure out how many people are seeing this behavior. In other words, sometimes when people give us feedback — it’s more about the person giving us the feedback than about us.

So we just want to run it through that lens. And what I suggest people do is find a few people in their professional and personal lives — who you might ask for feedback from a little bit more. I call them your loving critics. So our study subjects had usually between 3-5 people like that.

And that’s like a little built-in committee. So every time you get surprising feedback — take it to a couple of members of that group of loving critics and say,” have you experienced that in my behavior”? Or “is that something you’ve noticed before?” And what you can do is get a pretty good view of how pervasive is this behavior, and you might find that — Oh, surprise — everyone sees it.

And then you know that you have the decision to make. But if nobody else sees the behavior, then you have another decision to make which is how much should I be listening to this feedback? How much do I care?

Another thing that the highly self-aware people and our study did differently is — It’s pretty counterintuitive. So if we hear feedback that’s really surprising — most everybody that’s reading this is a successful high achieving person. They want to do better.

They want to — Otherwise, they wouldn’t be reading, but yeah, the temptation is — we hear feedback and want to immediately figure it out and respond. Okay, tomorrow I’m going to do this and this and this, but what our study subjects did differently was they actually just put that feedback in the back of their mind and waited — sometimes days, sometimes even weeks until they felt ready to approach it.

And I think there’s so much power in that — if we’re not careful, we can become too reactive and not as strategic and not as logical in the way we respond. So there are a lot of other suggestions, but I think those are probably the two most important.

Nishant: Is there a specific language to request feedback in our personal and professional life?

Tasha: There are a couple ways you can do this. Maybe I’ll take it personally and professionally a little bit differently. So personally, I think another goal of getting feedback often is to strengthen our relationships with other people. It’s not that we’re trying to get a promotion. For example, we just want to have a better marriage.

So there’s a great tool that I talk about in “insight” called the dinner of truth. And this is an exercise — it was created by a brilliant communications professor named Josh Meisner. And the way it works is essentially you find someone in your life whose opinion matters to you, with who you want to strengthen your relationship.

You take them out to virtual coffee or to get a drink or to have lunch. You ask them the following question. “What do I do that is most annoying to you and then wait for this“. This is where it gets crazy. You listen and you’re silent and you listen.

And then at the end, you say — thank you. Part of the reason feedback is so scary is I feel like sometimes we have to justify it or we have to explain it. But my mentor and friend Marshall Goldsmith taught me that that is the only option.

When someone gives you feedback, just say, thank you. It doesn’t mean you’re going to act on it. It doesn’t mean it’s true, but thank you. I would never ask any clients or readers or podcast listeners to do any of these tools If I hadn’t tried them myself.

And what I’d say about the dinner of truth is it is always unfailingly, a surprisingly positive experience. You got this person who cares about you, who wants to help you be better. Sometimes they’ll ask you, and then it can become a mutual thing to have that conversation. But I would say if it sounds scary, try it and as soon as you do, you’ll see the value.

Nishant: We should not ask for this feedback from everybody. So how should we filter those people in our lives?

Tasha: That’s such an important question. I’m really glad you asked that there are basically two criteria that we found in our study that make for a good feedback giver. There are a lot of people who have one criterion, but very few people meet both criteria. So the first is we have to believe that that other person truly wants us to succeed.

And, in our personal lives, that’s usually easier. At work, we might have to be a little bit more discerning. There are a lot of different motives and scarcity thinking in some workplaces. You should feel confident that that person wants you to be successful — that doesn’t mean that that person has to be your best friend at work.

Sometimes the best most supportive people are colleagues we don’t know well — we just see them and they’ve always helped us when we asked.

The second criterion is we also have to believe that they’ll tell us the truth, especially when it’s hard to hear.

Think about the people in your life — there are probably a lot of people who would love to be critical of us and a lot of people who just love us no matter what. So finding people who are loving critics — is the sweet spot of feedback.

And one other thing I’ll say about these highly self-aware people is that what they did differently is they didn’t try to find 15 or 20 loving critics. It was usually about three to five people that they relied on a regular basis. That’s easy to do — even think about how could I get one loving critic — it becomes a lot more doable.

If you enjoyed this post, you can also listen to my full interview with Tasha:

Dr. Tasha Eurich — Increase Your Self-Awareness, Importance of Feedback, Meditation, and Effective Decision Making (#108)

Listen to the full episode on Apple PodcastsSpotifyOvercastGoogle PodcastsStitcher, or on your favorite platform

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