How Feedback Can Advance Your Career
Whether it’s during a spontaneous conversation with a co-worker or the long-anticipated annual performance evaluation, accepting feedback is never easy. But the opinions of others can be immensely helpful in your professional development. Being open to constructive feedback is a great way to learn things about yourself you may not be able learn on your own.
Keep in mind the distinction between feedback and criticism. Feedback includes positive comments and suggestions for future improvement. Criticism suggests a judgment someone has made about your behavior and rarely encourages a change in behavior. Constructive criticism, on the other hand, focuses on specific actions to take and is therefore much the same as feedback.
Asking for and accepting feedback in a positive way can lead to improved skills and the opportunity to become a better office professional in the future. Here are some tips:
In a formal conversation, let the other person know what kind of feedback (and how much) you’re interested in hearing at one time. Ask behavior-related questions so your boss or co-worker can offer specific advice on what to do differently in the future. For example, “Do I talk too much during meetings?” or “Am I noticeably quiet during conference calls?” It’s OK to ask clarifying questions in order to get the most out of their comments.
Don’t get defensive
If you ask for feedback or someone volunteers to offer insight into your professional behavior, avoid getting defensive. Some comments may hit a nerve, but remember, feedback is not judgment. While it might be tempting to break in or justify your actions, doing so only interrupts what the other person has to say and inhibits him or her from speaking honestly with you. (You’ll also get a reputation for not taking feedback well, which will only make those around you reluctant to share their thoughts in the future.)
Remember, other people’s opinions aren’t “wrong.” You can agree or disagree, but try to hold off on that impulse during the feedback conversation. Also, be aware of your body language and facial expressions; these are cues to the other person that you’re willing to take in what they say, without becoming defensive or hostile. And always let the person finish his or her thoughts!
Blame doesn’t work
Some feedback may strike you as being more appropriate for someone else. This is another form of being defensive and should be avoided at all costs. Expressing this feeling out loud won’t impress others with your ability to accept feedback.
Anticipate the unexpected
Asking for and receiving feedback takes courage; you may very well hear something completely unexpected about yourself. It may relate to something you did or didn’t do in the past or actions that never registered as an issue. Or feedback can be tied to a project you completed (or thought you completed) weeks ago. Whatever the case, try to remain calm and just take it all in.
Summarize and repeat
To ensure that you’re truly absorbing the feedback, summarize and repeat back what the other person said. If there’s any confusion, this is the perfect opportunity to clear things up. And, when the conversation is over, remember to thank the other person for taking time to speak honestly with you.
Write it down
As soon as the feedback conversation ends, write down everything you remember. Include the specific words the other person used. Don’t rely on memory to keep everything straight.
Process what you hear
Take some time to reflect upon the feedback you received. How much of what you heard makes sense or confirms what you suspected about yourself? Are you able to recognize situations in which you can change how you act, based on the feedback you received? Armed with this new information, you can self-monitor your actions in future situations.
— By Lee Polevoi