On Receiving Feedback

Knowing how to receive feedback is half the battle. The receiver has a responsibility to be mindful of the context of the feedback, as well as self-aware of his or her own biases. This post will expand on the dynamics and awareness required to effectively receive feedback; including:

  1. Defensive Triggers
  2. Blind Spots
  3. Context & Intentions
  4. System Dynamics

Content credit for this post go to Thanks for the Feedback and to my close friend Jose Varela for his help.

Let’s get started.

1. Understand your Defensive Triggers

Defensive triggers affect our willingness to acknowledge and internalize critique from others. Three main triggers that prevent us from receiving feedback are:

Trigger

Obstacle

Truth

We don’t take the feedback because we have a problem with the content itself. We feel that it is wrong, off-target or simply out of context.

Social

We don’t take the feedback because we have a problem with the giver. We might not believe their credibility on the topic or not appreciate the way they delivered the feedback.

Identity

We don’t take the feedback because we have a problem with how it affects our relationship with ourself. It undermines our self-perception and makes us feel overwhelmed or defensive.

Understand your reactions and responses that impair/affect your ability to receive feedback.

2. Understand your Blind Spots

When people give you feedback, it’s for a reason. There is something they’ve figured out that you are blind to or haven’t realized. A couple common blind spots : 

  1. We can’t see our facial expressions.
  2. We can’t hear our tone of voice.
  3. We are unaware of our behaviour patterns.

If you find yourself reacting defensively to feedback, first identify if a blind spot is at hand. Understand that others have exclusive access to information about our faults that is necessary for our development.

3. Understand the Context & Intentions

In order to interpret the feedback being received, you must be able to tie the context of the giver to the intentions behind the feedback being given:

Where are they coming from?

← →

Where were they going?
  • Data
  • Expectations
  • Observations
  • Interpretations
  • Implicit Rules
  • Coaching
  • Advice
  • Evaluation
  • Consequences
  • Expectations

Spend some time trying to understand the context from which the feedback has been crafted.

4. Understand the ‘Dynamics’ of the Feedback System

Feedback doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s usually influenced by the environment and dynamics within which it occurs. Think of feedback as a ‘system‘ of dynamics, in order to understand the various influences at play: 

Layer

Dynamics

Actions

How are my actions contributing to the feedback dynamics?

Beliefs

How does the feedback reflect preferences, assumptions, styles, or implicit rules between us?

Expectations

Do our roles and responsibilities create adversarial, conflicting or clashing situations?

Influences

What other players, processes, structures, and team culture are influencing the dynamics of the feedback?

Understand the dynamics at play between the giver and the receiver.

Main Takeaway

Receiving feedback is about allowing yourself to focus on the content and to manage the social/emotional context surrounding the dynamics between you and the giver of the feedback.

Once you can separate the ‘what’ from the ‘who’, you’ll be in a position to objectively assess the feedback and the context in which it is being received.

That’s it for now! Cheers ‘till next time!

2 thoughts on “On Receiving Feedback

  1. Pingback: Feedback “Situation” Handling | Beto's Blog

  2. Pingback: A Primer for New Managers | Beto's Blog

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