It’s no secret that most people don’t like having their flaws pointed out to them. But the fact is that other people often see our shortcomings more clearly than we do.
And just as sharks need to keep swimming in order to breathe, entrepreneurs need to keep learning and developing both personally and professionally to improve their performance and grow their businesses. That makes feedback, especially the negative kind, an invaluable gift, provided you’re able to accept it gracefully.
Here are five tips to help you make the most of your colleagues’ and clients’ feedback:
1. Don’t take it personally.
Constructive criticism is not an insult or a reflection on who you are as a person. It’s merely someone’s observations about his or her interactions with you in a business context. Whether the person is well-meaning or just being mean-spirited doesn’t really matter. Respond respectfully as though your critic's intentions are good, and come from a place of gratitude for the information.
After all, you’re smart and savvy enough to determine how valid the feedback is and what to do about it.
2. Ask for specifics.
Many people are just as uncomfortable giving constructive feedback as they are getting it and therefore dance around the issue, trying to be as gentle and polite as possible. That’s fine for easing into the process of sharing personal opinions, but you’ll probably need more details to get to the heart of the matter. Demonstrate with your words and manner that you’re sincerely open to feedback, and people will tell you what you really need to know.
3. Solicit help.
A sure-fire way to show that you’re seriously interested in people’s feedback is to ask their advice about how you can improve your performance. Say something like, “I’ve been thinking about this myself, and really want to do better in the future. Do you have any suggestions for how I can improve?” When you candidly acknowledge your deficiencies and solicit advice, you show your strength, and people may well respond with helpful counsel.
4. Share your progress.
If you respect the person who gave you the constructive criticism, you’ll take the advice seriously and actively work on improving your performance in that area. Share your progress with the individual who shared the feedback and show that you heard his or her concerns and are willing to actively take steps to improve your performance. You can prove this, first, by doing better at whatever was critiqued, but also by updating people on what you’ve done in response to their feedback.
5. Be a feedback mirror.
When someone shares constructive criticism with you, this individual makes himself or herself vulnerable to criticism. That may be why people are so rarely honest about what they really think of others. People know they have their own faults, but may feel exposed having them pointed out. Offer yourself as a partner in self-improvement by telling others that their feedback is valuable and that you are happy to return the favor.
Nobody’s perfect. From time to time, we all need others to let us know when we aren’t measuring up to our potential. So, constructive criticism, negative feedback or whatever you want to call it is essential to everyone’s self-development. Be an agent of change in this area, and you’ll be rewarded with useful information and better business relations.