How to Receive Unsolicited Feedback

Leaders often spend a lot of time talking about how we should give feedback. Yet, we spend a lot less time on the equally important flip side of this topic: how we receive feedback. Sometimes it’s solicited, but many times it isn’t. In both cases, our willingness to receive feedback directly impacts our professional (and often our personal) growth.

So, how well do you do at receiving feedback, especially when you didn’t ask for it? Here are five important steps to being a good receiver.

1. Listen. Don’t interrupt; you’ll get your turn to speak. If your leader or colleague cares enough about you and your development to give you feedback, just listen.

2. See the scenario through the other person’s eyes. If their feedback is welcome and you agree, this comes easily. If you disagree or you didn’t ask for feedback in the first place, this takes effort. Remember, we all have blind spots and biases. We benefit and grow when we strive to see a situation from another’s perspective.

3. Don’t be defensive. When it’s your turn to speak, you can explain your perspective and you can disagree, but whatever you do, don’t get defensive. What’s the difference? Disagreeing explains your thought process. Defensiveness makes excuses.

4. Thank them. Yes, thank your colleague for caring enough to give you feedback. It takes a measure of courage to approach someone and offer a helpful critique, especially when it’s unsolicited. Your reaction and openness to considering their thoughts will determine whether or not they will risk sharing their perspective with you in the future.

5. Apply what you’ve learned. How can you take the feedback and apply it? What will you do differently next time? Real change happens when we take what we’ve learned and live it out. And what if you still disagree with the feedback? In that case, hopefully you learned how to respectfully receive feedback, even when you don’t see eye-to-eye.

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