How To Make Feedback Work For You

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Many people find it difficult to receive feedback and also provide feedback to others. Our reactions to receiving this feedback vary significantly and we often have difficulty controlling our emotional responses which in turn results in others being apprehensive as to how to best provide us information.

In this great post by Mental Toughness Partners CEO, Paul Lyons, he provides some great tips on receiving and using feedback and how to be open to its benefits as well as how to better manage unexpected negative feedback.

Receiving and using feedback helps develop Mental Toughness especially in the 4Cs framework (Control, Commitment, Challenge and Confidence) specifically with respect to Control (our emotional management) and Challenge (stretching oneself).

If you are open, feedback can help you to craft the way you think and behave and the person you want to become which is why feedback is often considered a “gift”.

Here are some tips on how to use the feedback you receive to improve your skills and your self-awareness by better understanding the impact of your actions and decisions on the people around you:

1. Adopt a positive mindset

Acknowledge the benefits of adopting a positive and consistent mindset towards feedback. If your mindset is automatically set to a positive default position regarding feedback then this helps remove your defensive barriers to receiving feedback and improve your ability to evaluate and potentially use it to develop your skills and/or change your behaviour for the better.

2. Manage Your Emotional Responses

Understanding and using a feedback framework to help you manage your emotional responses to the way you receive and use your feedback. This framework has four elements:

  • Positive feedback
  • Negative feedback
  • Expected feedback
  • Unexpected feedback

In each you should respond in a different way although always being:

  • Grateful to receive it
  • Gracious in the way you receive it
  • Open to listen intently to what’s being said.

Positive / expected feedback

This is the easiest feedback to receive because you know it’s coming and whilst it is easy to bask in the praise you should think how you should use this skill to further improve your productivity and job satisfaction.

Positive / unexpected feedback

In many ways this is the best feedback to receive because it is both positive and unexpected. Beyond the initial high, you want to get to work on how you can use the nature of the feedback to improve and develop your skills whilst remaining humble.

Negative / expected feedback

This feedback usually comes in formal feedback meetings or in a situation where something has gone badly wrong. You are expecting the negative feedback and may need to give your account of what has happened and why. It is important to stay calm, acknowledge what has happened and listen with greater intent to better understand how you can address the performance issues and make the required changes.

Negative / unexpected feedback

Whilst this feedback is the most difficult to receive, if you are open to it, it can also be the most beneficial over time. Invariably this feedback comes from people we don't want to acknowledge and often because we’re not prepared for it, we can naturally become defensive or alternatively go on the offensive, especially where we are reacting to unwelcome or unpleasant things being said.

3. Develop a Routine to Receive Negative Feedback

As mentioned above, the negative/unexpected feedback can be the most difficult to manage because it can threaten our ego and emotional security and often we don't have time to adjust our mental state to cope. That is why it is important to develop a routine for receiving negative and unexpected feedback:

  • Don't react emotionally straight away. If you are angry or upset try to calm down and stay cool before you reply either verbally or via written communication. Take some time to think about how you respond, if you respond.
  • Listen intently to the feedbackTry to remain open and objective, think more about the content and less about the delivery and the source. Focus on how this message can help you.
  • Evaluate the feedback and whether or not it is justified as well as the situation and motivation of the individual.
  • Decide to respond or let go.

If you decide to respond do so in an objective, calm and measured way. Although a face to face or telephone conversation can become emotional, an email can be just as inflammatory by being misconstrued. Either way, giving yourself a 24 hour embargo before responding can help you better manage the feedback and your response.

Feedback of any shape or source can be good for you if you learn to receive it in the right way and then use it to improve your skills and self- awareness.

Want to know more about developing your mental toughness? Send me an email at to enquire about coaching and training.