Are your feedback triggers getting in the way of your learning? 81% of people are bothered when their performance is criticised.* Does your organisation equip people to receive feedback or only to deliver it?

It’s not surprising that criticism, whether real or perceived, bothers 4 out of 5 of us. Who wants to be told they are not performing well? 50% of us also tend to dwell on negative feedback*.

We believe it’s time to change our attitudes and behaviours around feedback. Without open conversations, organisations risk failing to optimise their biggest asset – people – and risk failing to achieve their goals.

We also recognise that no one likes giving or receiving bad feedback, but we know a lot of learning can be gleaned from it. The majority of training offered in this space tends to focus on how to better give feedback or have “difficult conversations”. However, there is an opportunity to look at this situation from a different perspective – We can’t control how people give feedback to us; but we can control how we respond to it.

There are techniques to help improve how we receive feedback so that we spot opportunities to learn and further improve our performance. When we reframe both positive and negative feedback as potential learning, we are more likely to improve our personal effectiveness, stretch out of our comfort zone, engage with greater risk taking and respond better to change.

A key technique to help with this involves understanding feedback triggers**:

  1. Truth Trigger – where feedback feels wrong, unfair or unhelpful.

    • Be curious and ask questions to understand what the person means and why.
    • Consider whether the area might be a blind spot as others may see things you don’t.
    • You may end up agreeing or disagreeing with the feedback, but it’s worth spending time trying to understand before dismissing it.
  2. Relationship Trigger – set off by the person giving feedback and your relationship with them, e.g. perhaps you don’t get on, don’t trust them or they may be less experienced.

    • Separate the who from the what and make a note of the main feedback points.
    • Consider if you’d be more willing to accept the feedback from someone else?
    • Try to separate things out in order to see whether there is useful feedback and advice in there.
  3. Identity Trigger – when our view of who you are feels under threat, e.g. if you think you’re a great manager but receive some negative feedback in a 360 review or a performance review.

    • Put it in perspective – try not to catastrophise and over-generalise.
    • Switch your mindset and think about what you can improve from this feedback. It’s not about being right or wrong, it’s about getting better.

So, next time you receive what feels like criticism, reframe it to extract learning rather than taking offence.

* Data based on responses gathered through the growth mindset psychometric, Mindset Advantage, from thousands of leaders and hundreds of organisations globally over a period of 7 years.

** “Thanks for the Feedback” by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen