When did we get so defensive? How to negotiate the receiving end of feedback

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You’re driving your car and someone cuts you off

Naturally, you give your horn an epic blast and in return, they give you the international signal for “I’m not so happy about that”… and they were the one in the wrong!

We do it at work, and with our partners too. Someone points out something we haven’t done so great and most often our first reaction is that we get defensive.

Is it the delivery or is it that we just don’t like hearing about our short-comings?

Fun Fact: Feedback = Growth
Imagine you are an up-and-coming sports star. Surely your coach, manager, parents and fitness team don’t only tell you the great stuff about what you do? If they know you can do better, they’re going to tell you directly what those things are. After all, what favours are they doing you by only pointing out your strengths?

Plus, isn’t that constructive information part of having a competitive advantage?

It’s one thing to deliver feedback the right way (see my other article about that here), but it’s also a skill, how to receive feedback.

When you’re on the receiving end of feedback, how you respond is crucial.
Here are 4 ways to receive feedback with openness…

  1. If someone has mustered up the courage to tell you something confronting, it’s a big deal.

It’s hard to have a Bold Conversation with someone. It might get awkward. Someone might get offended, or upset. It’s high risk.

Given that it is difficult to do and there are complex emotions and judgements at play, it’s possible they have significantly watered down the actual impact of the feedback being delivered. So the reality is likely much worse than they let on.

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  1. Use this as an opportunity to practice winning an Oscar for “Best Performance in Accepting Feedback”.

Seriously, use everything within you to be the best listener, use the best body language and apply the most appropriate time length of silence before responding.

  1. Ask questions

How long have you felt this way? How is this impacting you? What is the outcome you are seeking? What suggestions have already come up with? Are there others this may also be affecting?

  1. Be vulnerable

Reacting with defensiveness will not allow for a great discussion nor a successful outcome. Allow yourself to respond the way you would like someone to respond to you in the same situation.

Apologise if it is appropriate. Dismount any metaphorical high-horse you may have ridden in on and offer a sincere apology in the same manner you would to your best friend or your child.

Thank them for being brave enough to speak to you.

After all, giving feedback is actually a very generous thing to do.

Delivering feedback in the right manner is an important skill to learn. Read about how to give feedback in the most respectful way in this article.


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