Last week, I was given feedback from a publisher that I frequently work with. Although the feedback was constructive and not necessarily "bad", there were still some things that were hard for me to hear. I really wanted to try to explain, to get angry, to whine about how their assessment wasn't fair, but I took a deep breath and tried to remind myself that the things that are the most difficult to hear are the same ones that are probably true. I knew that they weren't trying to upset me or hurt my feelings, rather they wanted to give me pointers and tell me where I need to do the most work. Since I'm a long way from perfect, of course there will be things I need to improve upon and this honest feedback is important.
The challenge for all of us is in accepting feedback with grace. If we didn't receive any constructive advice, then we wouldn't be growing. So, how do you keep your cool and take it like a professional? Here are a few tips:
Breathe - Take a deep breath and relax. It's completely normal to be nervous, anxious and on edge during a feedback session. Be gentle to yourself and understand that this is all part of the process of becoming better, stronger, faster.
You might be surprised - Any time that I have been given honest feedback, there are always things that catch me off guard. Prepare to be surprised by some of the things you might hear. If you disagree with something, think about what you are doing that is causing people to get this impression. Sometimes you'll find out that things you thought weren't a big deal, really were. Other times, you might find out that you had made wrong assumptions about the job. Either way, it's a great chance to learn.
Don't play the blame game - It's important not to get defensive or blame others during this session, even if it's true. Even if you completely disagree with what is being said, don't voice your opinions. Instead, ask question to get a better idea of what the issue is. There will be plenty of time to follow up later, after you have cooled down and had time to think things over. For now, accept the feedback in a spirit of learning.
Move on - Once the feedback session is over, give yourself some time to think about what was said and come up with ways to improve on any areas of weakness. Then, move on. Don't let resentment over hurt feelings or misunderstanding fester inside of you. It isn't productive and will only serve to hurt your performance and your overall morale. Just let it go and keep improving.
Say thanks - Giving honest feedback is hard. No one wants to hurt your feelings, but feedback is important. No matter how hard it was to hear, be sure to give them a genuine thank you. It's not easy to be that honest and leaving with good feelings goes a long way. These are the times that you get to practice being a professional.
Constructive feedback is important to your overall professional development. Even though it's hard, it's important to be able to accept it with grace and good humor.