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Feedback: Listening to What You Don’t Want to Hear

1. First, accept the fact that you are not perfect and that nobody else is perfect, either. This seems self-evident, but a surprising

number of people expect themselves to get everything right the first time, often without instruction.

2. Drop your defensiveness. Feedback feels like criticism to many people.

When you are tempted to explain why you behaved as you did, and why you could not possibly have done anything differently, stop yourself. Take a deep breath and listen carefully. Think about what is being said to you; try not to think about how you need to respond. Being able to do this takes courage and practice.

3. Make sure you understand what you are being told. Ask questions about specifics. Ask for details and examples, and listen to them.

4. Restate in your own words your understanding of the issues that are being discussed, and clarify the issues before you respond to them. Clarify whether the person offering the feedback is requesting that you take some action in response to the feedback.

Showing that you are listening and understanding is often enough.

5. Decide whether a response is really necessary. If it is, take time to think about how to respond, even if it means asking to discuss the situation at a later time.

6. Recognize that even criticism usually contains useful information.

7. Treat criticism as feedback offered in an unskilled manner, and respond to it as if it is offered as a gift. This takes practice – do the best you can.

8. Always thank the person offering you feedback.

9. If you suspect that someone has information about you or your behavior and is not offering to share it with you, ask for that person’s feedback. Be certain to accept the comments non-defensively and with appreciation, even if you are unhappy with what is
being said. The more often you do this, the more you will learn about yourself.

10. Once more, say thank you and mean it!

Excerpted from lesson 11, “The Integrity Course.”
Copyright 2006 Laurie Weiss, Ph.D.

Learn more in “The Integrity Course,” an online, multimedia course to help you say what you think without getting fired or losing your friends.
Laurie Weiss, Ph.D., is an internationally-known executive coach,psychotherapist, and author.