This month in the Uncharted Community, Andy posed a question that stimulated a thoughtful discussion about taking criticism, no matter how constructive in its intent. We got some great advice, and a few key phrases that help our community members when receiving feedback. Take a look:
“When someone tells us we didn’t ‘do it quite right' or that we could ‘maybe do a better job next time,' it’s not easy to hear. We think ‘What does she know?!' as emotional alarm bells clatter between our ears, our confidence crashes down, and we are flooded with emotions like uncertainty, shame, and anger.
When we take criticism, there’s no shame in not responding immediately. Processing is not the same as agreeing or accepting. It’s just taking time to weigh and consider. We should all get more comfortable with stepping away and thinking of receiving feedback as a two-part process.
So with that, let me ask you, what approaches to taking feedback have been most helpful to you?“
1. Listen First
“When getting feedback I listen and ask questions for clarification. I do not respond in the moment and give myself time to digest and reflect on the facts and what is emotional. Time heals all wounds.”
“I just stay connected and listen. If I open my mouth, it’s over. I’ll say something reactive.”
The first step for our community members was to listen to the feedback they were receiving. It can be difficult not to react in the moment, but if you listen first and speak later, the conversation is going to be much more productive.
2. Know your emotions.
“I stay real connected to my emotions. Because they are real. I FEEL and honor the ego hit, the gut punch, the feeling of wanting to retreat or jump out with claws. If I stay connected I work through what story is underlying that emotion, then can work through it.”
“Verbal negative/constructive feedback will often make me cry … it's hard not to turn that off.”
Like Andy said, taking criticism is going to trigger emotions. Our Community members agree that giving yourself some time to acknowledge those is a key step to hearing feedback. One Community member reminded us that ice cream is helpful through this part!
Many of them discussed how receiving feedback automatically made them cry (relatable!). Stepping back for a moment and saying “not right now” when someone asks if they can give you feedback can be enough to give yourself time to get your mind ready to hear constructive criticism and potentially curb those tears.
3. Create the best possible situation to receive feedback.
You might not know the feedback is coming, but if you do, we love what this Community member had to say!
“If I know I am in a situation where I am likely to receive feedback I will try to be in my best light – well rested, well fed, not rushed.”
5. The phrase, “Thank you for sharing this with me. I need to process it for a while.”
The best thing to do when taking criticism? Give yourself some time to process it before you respond! This was the number one piece of advice our Community members had.
“I simply believe it’s too challenging for normal human beings to receive feedback, rise above our natural emotional response, and take the conversation in a maximally productive place in one sitting. The “time to process” step is absolutely vital!”
“That 24 hr processing rule is HUGE!”
“Try not to react right away! I’m getting the feedback for a reason and I will need time to process it. Then make a plan for improvement. Always stay in the mindset that I will need improvement along the way and that’s okay.”
“For me, it absolutely necessary to step back, take a breath and a little time before I answer. My usual is can I call you back in a bit or let me check of that and get back to you.”
“I started taking 24 hours to contemplate and reflect on any difficulties, personal and professional. It is crazy how many things are really not a big deal the next day. I think this works in so many areas – personal conflicts, relationships, criticism, complaints, you name it. But back to Andy's point, we are never going to eliminate our reaction to criticism, but we can mitigate the physical/emotional response by asking for time.”
More Resources on Feedback:
Uncharted Veterinary Podcast Episode 51: Critical Conversations for People Who Hate Conflict
Uncharted Veterinary Podcast Episode 42: Am I A Good Boss? How Do I Receive Honest Feedback?
Submit your questions for the Podcast at unchartedvet.com/mailbag