Not all of us are fortunate enough to receive great feedback. We all do receive feedback, and some receive very little actionable feedback.
If you offer proposals, give presentations, make requests, or even just ask for a favor, you will receive some form of response. It often is just an answer to the call to action, and nothing more.
At some point, you may be ‘pulled aside’ so someone can provide you feedback on your behavior, your delivery, your ability or skill. It is this type of feedback that is essential to your improvement.
If you want to improve making proposals, presentations, or requests, you need feedback. Asking for additional samples for a reliability test 10,000 times will not help you improve unless you receive actionable and meaningful feedback that helps you improve the next request.
Here are a few tips to help you receive, understand, and take steps to improve.
Lower Your Shield
“We need to talk.” Will instantly cause you to be wary, guarded, and defensive. As will many other phrases that signal the person wishes to give you some feedback.
When you realize you are about to receive, what may be difficult to hear, feedback, the natural tendency for most of us is to take flight or fight. This response will help you avoid hearing and understanding the feedback being offered. It also makes others less likely to attempt to provide feedback in the future.
Giving constructive criticism is not easy for the person giving you feedback. Help them by accepting the feedback. Let them tell you what they need to say. Avoid shooting the messenger, as they most likely care enough about you to offer feedback.
It’s Just Information
Keep in mind that you cannot see yourself as others do. We all make observations about others. This unique perspective provides insights that you cannot otherwise obtain.
The feedback you receive is the result of their observations and assessment. It may be extremely useful or not. Take the time to listen and understand, plus take time to check with others to determine the validity of the feedback.
Help the person offering feedback by paying attention, asking clarifying questions, nodding, etc. See the section of active listening for details.
Get Specific Feedback
If someone mentions that your presentation yesterday wasn’t very good, ask them for specific examples that hampered the presentation. Was it word choice? Or, pacing? Or, not having a clear message? Or, was it confusing? If so, how? Ask for examples, excepts, or elements that help you understand what could improve your next presentation.
You do not have to accept vague or general feedback. It is easy to do, yet not terribly useful to you or anyone else. You need to fully understand their assessment and feedback.
Check Your Reception of the Feedback
As with active listening, paraphrase your understanding of the feedback to check that you actually understand what the person intended you to understand.
Evaluate the Feedback Later
Suspend judgment. Like avoiding being defensive, this is difficult. When someone is providing you with feedback, it not the time to judge the validity of the statements. The evaluation process may limit what you comprehend.
Focus on gathering the information and understanding the feedback. Take notes if you have to. Spending time later to processes the feedback. Look at the information closely, yet later when you can focus on your interpretation of the feedback.
Seek Triggers the Prompted the Feedback
If the feedback was about a behavior that you would like to control, ask questions to help you ferret out the trigger that invoked the behavior. You may have a habit or typical response that is not having a suitable affect. To change such a habit will require understanding the events or situations that invoke the undesired response.
Request Constructive Criticism
The next time you are heading into to a meeting to request additional samples for a test, ask someone you trust to watch your presentation and request. Ask them to look for ways you could improve making the presentation and request.
Even after an event or presentation, ask witnesses about their impressions and their suggestions to improve. Ask for feedback.
If you get, “it was good”, ask for at least one thing that could be improved.
Learn From Compliments, too
If someone mentions you did a “good presentation”, that is a compliment. Smile and say thanks, as will come naturally. Then ask for one thing you could have done better.
The above suggestions on listening, being specific, etc all apply.
Decide on Your Next Steps
Only you can decide what to do with the provided feedback. The options include ignoring the feedback, gathering more data, observing the behaviors in question, learning how to improve, taking specific steps to actually improve.
Years ago, about a month after starting work with a new group within the company, one of my co-worker mentioned that during the interview I didn’t use female pronouns at all. I was totally not aware of this behavior in my speaking.
After a short discussion, and some thought about the feedback, I decided to deliberately use a balance of male and female pronouns in my writing and speaking. I set reminders to myself every couple of weeks. I asked my co-workers to pay attention to my pronoun use during meetings, stories, and presentations.
To this day I recall that bit of feedback. To this day I am aware of my word choice and the impact on others. Also, the feedback has improved my ability to communicate effectively.
When you last received constructive criticism, how do you do? Did you really listen and attempt to understand the feedback? What works for you or you wish you could improve?