How to Stop Bristling at Feedback

Leaders rarely say, “I’d like your feedback.” It’s even more rare for feedback to be received well.

The most important thing about seeking feedback is the way it’s received.

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5 reasons leaders bristle when receiving feedback:

  1. Blindspots. Feedback often comes from someone who sees something you don’t.
  2. Self-rejection. You can’t stand the idea that others might see you as human.
  3. Confidence. Your approach is the “right” approach. No one wakes up thinking, “I want to make wrong decisions today.”
  4. Perceived knowledge. Young leaders know too much and so do gray hairs. We need more dumb leaders.
  5. Hurt feelings. Feedback offends good intentions.

It’s challenging to give tough feedback. It takes humility and practice to receive it well.

7 ways to destroy the benefit of feedback:

  1. Explanation. The next time you bring up a tough issue, listen for, “That’s because….” Reasons to tolerate unacceptable behaviors follow, “That’s because.” 
  2. Diversion. Receiving negative feedback often results in pointing out the faults of others.
  3. Minimizing. “It’s not that bad.”
  4. Intimidation. Anger intends to punish people who bring up uncomfortable topics.
  5. Self-pity. “No one understands the pressure I feel.”
  6. Authenticity. Indulgent authenticity rejects feedback about shortcomings by saying, “I’m just not good at ….”
  7. Discounting the source. “They’re being vindictive.”

10 ways to receive feedback like a pro:

Feedback is essential to tapping personal and organizational potential. When receiving feedback:

  1. Relax. Relax. Relax.
  2. Keep the end in mind.
  3. Stay comfortably close and connected.
  4. Imagine your guard going down when you feel it rising up.
  5. Lean in and ask a question when you feel like pulling back and making statements.
  6. Focus on behaviors.
  7. Ask for examples.
  8. Explore a path forward.
  9. Set a follow-up meeting.
  10. Say, “Thank you.”

What causes leaders to bristle at feedback?

What tips for receiving feedback might you add?