I have written previously about how to give critical feedback effectively, and how to ask for it. The other part of the equation is what to do once you receive critical feedback. It can be emotionally difficult, even if you asked for it, so it’s worth it to take some time to figure out how to process feedback thoroughly and make the most use of it.

1) Reflect on Whether It’s True

When we get feedback, most of us tend to immediately decide whether we agree with it or not. This impulse is totally natural, and it comes from a good place — having a strong identity. However, sometimes the feedback that can have the most impact is feedback that doesn’t fit with our view of ourselves. Feedback that takes you out of your own idea about what you’re “good” and “bad” at is the type of feedback that leads to real growth. If we wanted to rely on our own views, we wouldn’t have bothered to ask for feedback in the first place, right? So even though it’s hard, pause when you get the feedback, and resist making a snap judgment about whether you agree. Let yourself think about it and really reflect on it without judgment or anger. You may end up in the same place, and that’s ok, the process will still have been worth it.

2) Get Multiple Views

Since we do all have a very clear vision of ourselves, it’s easy to think that our view is the only view. However, it’s important to separate intentions from impact. By intentions I mean how you meant something to sound and how you thought you were coming across. Often in the face of critical feedback, it’s easy to defend yourself by clarifying what your intentions were. While intentions are important, sticking to this point will blind you to the real area for improvement: understanding how you were actually perceived. Therefore, the greatest value in the feedback is that it will help you understand how others perceive you. Since one person’s view may not be the majority view, it’s a good idea to ask other people. Don’t just go for quantity. Instead, think about who you trust, who knows you well, and who is skilled or experienced in the attribute in question. Then ask for their opinions, and keep an open mind for what you might hear. By doing this and asking for their honest views, you will get a much more accurate picture of yourself. Feedback is, after all, just a collection of opinions, so the best way to get an accurate picture is to ask more people. While this can be uncomfortable, it is a very powerful thing, because it will allow you to make changes to your behavior that you wouldn’t have made otherwise.

3) Get Specific

I covered this in my post about how to give critical feedback effectively, but in case the person you are working with doesn’t follow that guidance, the burden shifts to you to get the specifics you need. Asking for specifics can sound awfully similar to asking for proof, and you don’t want these questions to come across as defensive (another example of the importance between intent and impact). Therefore, a good way to start is by making it clear that you are asking for specifics because you really want to understand the feedback. Ask questions like, “What could I have done differently? When should I have done something that I didn’t do? What was my approach missing?” You want to ask whatever you need to in order to understand the feedback around not just this situation, but whatever the underlying principle is. Only by understanding the principle will you truly be able to carry the lesson forward into your future work.

Tell me: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever gotten?