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Receiving feedback is one of the fastest and easiest ways to ensure personal growth. But it can be difficult. Some feedback might seem unfounded, feel personal, or even unfair. Still, it’s important to receive feedback in a calm and open manner instead of reacting defensively. This is especially important in a work situation where it might be difficult for your colleagues to push past your defensiveness. Missing out on feedback may mean missing out on a great insight or lesson and making the same mistakes over and over again. Therefore, receiving (difficult) feedback is a valuable and useful skill, especially if you have a performance review or feedback session coming up.

These tips will help you elicit valuable and honest feedback and react constructively:

  1. Clearly state that you would like to receive genuine and honest feedback. Make sure that others know they’re doing you a favor by being true and honest instead of nice. Explain to them that you want to get the most out of your meeting or conversation, that you want to learn and grow, and that this won’t be possible if they hold back.
  2. Focus on the future. Ask others to give you feedforward: this means you ask what you can do better in the future instead of focusing on what you did wrong in the past. It’s more productive, and it’s also easier for others to discuss.
  3. Be curious and probe. Ask many questions. Don’t just ask once; give others several opportunities to give you feedback on several levels and subjects. Ask for examples and ways to improve. It can be helpful to ask about specific situations — for example, what could you have done better in a particular meeting? By being curious and asking many questions, you’ll increase the chances that people will be comfortable sharing their opinion with you.
  4. Don’t judge.Whether it’s a compliment or a point of improvement, try not to judge or get defensive if you don’t understand or recognize it. First, thank the other for being honest and taking the time to share their opinion, and if you don’t understand what they mean: try point 3. If you show others that you truly value their opinion and that you won’t react badly to negative feedback, it will increase the chance that they’ll continue to be honest with you.
  5. Write it down.By doing this, you’ll tackle two things, it shows the other that you take their feedback seriously and intend to act on it (instead of just asking because it’s polite) and you also provide the other with some extra time to consider other feedback and examples (this is especially useful when you ask for feedback on-the-spot). They might come up with a second – even more useful – point because they had some time to ponder your feedback question.

Finally, it’s important to remember that feedback is not always an accurate reflection of who you are. But it is always an accurate reflection of how you’re perceived. And knowing how you’re perceived is vital if you want to improve your performance and increase your influence.

Good luck!