How should you take feedback? - Sage B. Hobbs

How do you deal when someone in your life gives you feedback that is uncomfortable, hurtful, or makes you angry?

Do you take it all in?  Let it soak in and feel shitty about yourself?

Deflect it? Not listen or make them wrong?

Feel criticized or judged? Walk away with your head hanging low, assuming they were “right” about you?

When I was 22 years old I had my first “real” job out of college.  I was super pumped to change the world, and went in to work fired up to effect change in inner city schools. I was ready.

A few months into my new role I was called in for a meeting with my bosses.  These were wise, seasoned women who’d been working in public education for decades longer than me.  They were also women of color (I am not), working in schools that were 95% students of color.  Clearly, they had some experience I did not.

They gave me some feedback that was hard to hear about how my enthusiasm and creativity was being perceived by some as arrogance.  Ouch.  I was deeply embarrassed and ashamed.  It was the opposite of how I wanted to come across, and I fully believed they were right.

Until I talked to my dad.  He coached me about how to respond to their feedback and reminded me of what I already knew deep down… I wanted to be of service in a big way.  I wanted to learn from these women and work with them collaboratively.  

I was able to be humble and a strong leader at the same time, but I was still struggling to find the balance.

How do we know what feedback we should learn from and what feedback really isn’t about us?  It can be hard, and takes practice.

I’ve been told I am intimidating, loud, bossy, opinionated, arrogant, and even aggressive. (Sidenote, many strong girls and women have received this feedback, but that’s a bigger conversation.)

Not going to lie, some of it sucked to hear.  AND, I’ve learned a ton about how to take what I need from feedback, and leave some of it behind.  

Take what there is to learn, but remember that it’s all personal perspective, not “fact.”

We all like to share our opinions, points of view, and advice… even when it’s not asked for and maybe isn’t even appropriate to do so.  

Receiving feedback is a tricky thing. We get feedback all the time from our family, our mentors, and friends. There are times it feels comfortable and good, and sometimes it is difficult, even painful.

You know I’m a HUGE proponent of open communication, of true listening, and of sharing ourselves fully with others.  

HOWEVER, we must always remember that each of us is having our own experience, unique to us.  Our opinions are just opinions.  Their opinions are just their opinions.

So how should we take feedback?

Before anything, we listen.  We’re always responsible for our part in the relationship or conversation.  So if you were a jerk, you own that you were a jerk and apologize for that piece.  After that, you consider what else there is to learn from the feedback, if anything.

Here’s the key, and it may seem simple, but is really hard to grasp when in the moment:

Feedback is interpretation.

Yes, feedback is the point of view of another person, it’s just but one of many perspectives. It’s not reality, it’s not fact, it’s not “the truth”. It is truth to the person giving the feedback, and you do not have to internalize it if it is not true for you.

Our responsibility in hearing feedback is to ask – is there something for me to learn here?

We should listen for the lesson from the feedback, but keep in mind that it’s not fact,  truth or absolute.

If there is a lesson, take it. If not, then trust yourself to let it go.   

You can watch the full video on receiving feedback here.

I’d love to know your thoughts and questions in the comments below.

As always, I super appreciate you.  “Naked” communication is amazing, but takes practice to show up for yourself and your life in a big, real, honest way.  Thank you for going for it.

You rock,