“[O]f course we must teach ourselves to be vulnerable to people who don’t agree with us, to people whose experience forces us to consider a different perception, to welcome our own ignorance.”

Max De Pree

Imagine it for a moment: How different might your work performance or relationships be if you sought the opinions of your coworkers or received more corrective or encouraging feedback on your performance?

Others’ perceptions of us are gifts, especially if we are ignorant of something that could be changed for the better. But it isn’t easy to ask for this feedback, to be this vulnerable—especially when the feedback is given poorly.

So what can help someone become more receptive to, or more seeking of, feedback and the opinions of others?

  • Know specifically what feedback you’re requesting. Selecting a specific action, project, or event can help both of you focus on one aspect of your work, personality, interactions, and so on.
  • Recognize how hard it is for most people to give constructive feedback and think about how you feel doing the same.
  • Choose wisely who you ask. Asking someone who is close to you can make it feel safer—but don’t just ask the people that will say nice things about you without offering constructive comments.
  • Solicit advice, which people are more comfortable giving than feedback. For example, ask, “If you were in my role on the team, what would you have done differently?” or “What advice would you give if I come into this situation again in the future?”
  • Follow their statements with questions to make it a discussion, not just a one-sided conversation. This allows you to understand clearly their point of view.
  • Depending on the situation, provide various modes of feedback, such as anonymous, online, written, or face-to-face (formally or casually over coffee or a meal). We all function differently, so give the other person different methods of connecting with you; that will help them focus on what they have to say.
  • End the conversation with a “thank you” and decide if there are any actions you should take immediately.

Most of all, remember that these thoughts are not a value judgment or statement of your worth. Don’t let fear stop you from asking. Find the courage simply to ask and reap the benefits as you progress through your career. Their gift may help you change for the better by becoming the best you possible!

For more information on seeking and being open to feedback, read Receive Feedback With Grace and Dignity by Susan M. Heathfield.


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